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Concerns Raised Regarding Anti-Human Rights Actions

Concerns Raised Regarding Anti-Human Rights Actions in the Democratic nation of South Korea

Pastors Encourage Division in Families
A New York Times advertisement space on November 28th showed a wolf in sheep’s clothing holding money and a chain in his hands while a woman is bound and persecuted. Titled “Ban Coercive Conversion”, the non-profit ad was published to raise awareness of a South Korean woman who was kidnapped by her own family and who came to die when she was forcefully persuaded to abandon her religious faith.

Ms. Gu Ji In, the victim from this conversion program, was taken by her parents in two instances to two locations – a Catholic monastery and a Resort Pension for months. Though the religious background of the family is with the Presbyterian church (a major denomination in Korean Christianity), the Catholic monastery with the approval from the Catholic members was used for this crime against human rights. The number of people enduring this type of forceful conversion exceeds 1,000 victims, resulting commonly in war-like mental trauma and even in some fatalities.

To restore justice, a public rally in Seoul with 120,000 participants was held back in January of this year; those who joined the rally requested legal punishment for this criminal activity performed by Christian pastors. These Christian Pastors who carry out the “Coercive Conversion Program” encourage parents to kidnap their own children and forcefully threaten them to convert their chosen religion.

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Hiding from exposure, without being directly involved in the physical violence of the coercive conversion programmes, the pastors avoid the criminal law and financially benefit from the parents. Yet even today, the Korean government has not released an official statement.

Korea's Mainstream Christianity Becomes a Breeding Ground of crime
The social and political influence of Christianity in South Korea has caused the rights of citizens to be ignored. The Christian Council of Korea (CCK) was established in 1989 as a unified organisation of Christian churches, the majority being of the Presbyterian denomination. With its millions of church members, the CCK exerted its influence in presidential elections for firm control over social and economic power. For the last 10 years, Korean media have frequently reported the corruption of the CCK.

The CCK’s controversies have raised concerns not only over the social division within Korea, but their history also includes global conflict. During the Japanese colonial period, the Presbyterian church encouraged Korean youth to participate in the war waged by Japan in Asia and the Pacific. In 1938, the church collected money to purchase weapons and claimed it was “the order of God for Christians in Korea.”

Under the sponsorship of the military dictatorship in the 1970s, this tradition transformed into an anti-peace slogan. Recently, the president of the CCK officially stated that “the citizens who held candle lights in Seoul Square when the former President Park Geun Hye resigned are ‘fleas’”, and he held a prayer service “for the fall of communist (President) Moon Jae In in the name of Jesus.”

At the prayer service, the CCK concluded with remarks encouraging war-like behavior, threatening global order. A former official from the Park government said, “For the stability of South Korea, we need nuclear armament.”

Responsibility and role of religion questioned
Pastor Noel Malik, Director of Pakistan Minorities Alliance in Italy, emphasized, “Denominations who exercise those actions are not Christian. They are extremist and anti-Christian. I want to ask them, “Which chapter and which verse are you following to do such bad actions? If the Bible does not say it, then why are you doing that?"

H.E. Samuel Sam-Sumana, Former Vice President of Government of Sierra Leone, said, “Governments should be encouraged and supported to develop clearly defined policies and laws against forceful conversion and those policies and laws should be fully enforced.”

“Importantly too, there should be collaborative efforts established and undertaken by countries in the same region to track and deal with such violations of rights,” he added.

"There have been 137 cases of coercive conversion after the death of Ms. Gu since January this year. This shows how Christian pastors are cheapening the lives of people," said Ms. Jihye Choi, co-president of Human Rights Association for Victims of Coercive Conversion Programs (HAC) in South Korea.

"In order to eliminate this kind of anti-human rights conversion, international interest is of tremendous importance," she highlighted.

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