MHA investigates S'pore branch of Shincheonji church, after cult practices led to Covid-19 outbreak in Daegu

Five South Korean nationals and two Singaporeans are assisting with ongoing investigations.

Syahindah Ishak | February 28, 2020, 06:23 PM

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The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is currently investigating the unregistered Singapore chapter of a South Korean religious cult.

Unorthodox teachings

The Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ) was founded by South Korean national Lee Man-Hee in 1984.

Lee has claimed to be the second coming of Christ, who would bring 144,000 people to heaven with him on the day of judgement.

On top of that, he also claimed to be the only person who can interpret the Bible.

SCJ also allegedly regards all other churches and pastors as belonging to Satan.

In addition, it justifies using deceit and lies if it serves God’s purposes.

For example, it has been accused of infiltrating and disrupting established Korean churches by using deception and secrecy to trick people into becoming involved with them.

Due to its unorthodox teachings, SCJ has been accused by several countries of being a cult.

Targeting Singaporean Christian youths and young adults

In a news release by MHA on Feb. 28, it is stated that five South Korean nationals and two Singaporeans are assisting with the ongoing local investigations.

MHA believes that Singapore's SCJ chapter has used similar deceptive recruitment methods.

They have been using front entities to target Christian youths and young adults to join their group.

The young members will then be influenced and controlled strictly.

They have to comply with instructions to conceal the local existence of SCJ and their involvement with it.

The members are also not allowed to contact one another, verify teachings with other churches, or inform their families of their involvement.

Tried to incorporate front companies

In February 2019, the SCJ members tried to register a company in Singapore under the name of "Heavenly Culture, World Peace & Restoration of Light" (HWPL),

However, MHA raised security objections to the registration as it was believed that HWPL was going to be used as a front for SCJ.

Subsequent investigations found that SCJ had previously incorporated another front company: "Spasie".

"Spasie" describes itself as a consultancy service company, whilst also providing service for the development of software.

Recently, SCJ also set up a sole proprietorship called "Kings Ave".

It provides corporate training services, motivational courses and personal development workshops.

However, "Kings Ave" entity is also a front to lease a property for use as a “temple”.

Investigations accelerated due to Covid-19

The Covid-19 outbreak erupted while investigations into SCJ’s activities in Singapore were ongoing.

MHA said that normally, the investigations would have taken another few weeks to conclude.

However, MHA decided to accelerate its investigations into SCJ and consider earlier action.

This is especially due to reports linking SCJ’s practices to the Covid-19 cluster in Daegu, South Korea.

Potential health risks to Singapore

MHA explained:

"If the local members of SCJ had been in recent contact with the Daegu chapter of SCJ, then there could be health risks to Singapore."

However, interviews with members of the SCJ in Singapore who have been called up so far found that they have not been in recent physical contact with persons from the Daegu cluster.

Four of the South Koreans currently assisting in investigations entered Singapore before the Covid-9 outbreak in Daegu and Cheongdo.

The fifth person came into Singapore on Feb. 21, 2020, but the Ministry of Health has indicated that she is well.

MHA intends to take action to proscribe the activities of SCJ in Singapore.

Top image of Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu by Jung Yeon-Je via Getty Images.