Kukmin Daily Newsletter (Issue 23)

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Kukmin Daily Newsletter (Issue 23)

입력 2020-03-17 16:17
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Kukmin Daily Newsletter
Issue 23
March 17, 2020
Seoul, Korea

With coronavirus (COVID-19) now characterized as a pandemic, the globe feels smaller than ever. How closely we all are connected to each other! Though this is said to be a controllable disease, let us remember in our prayers those in difficult living situations that put them at most risk of serious illness. This newsletter reports on another aspect of Shincheonji, through the story of a mother, one among many who have lost contact with family members due to Shincheonji. A second story introduces several beautiful, small meditation spots in the far southwestern corner of the Korean peninsula.

A mother appeals to Shincheonji head: “Give me back my daughter!”

Photo courtesy of Yonhap News

“This is the second year since my daughter vanished into Shincheonji and was totally cut off from our family. Where is she? What is she doing? Is she alive? I have no way of knowing. Save our children who are infected and dying from Coronavirus 19!”

The scene was next to a press conference held by Shincheonji head Lee Man-hee outside his “Peace Palace” in Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do on March 2. Ms. Lee Yeon-u, speaking to reporters there, said she had lost touch with her 27-year-old daughter, a member of Shincheonji. As part of her “one-person demonstration,” Ms. Lee was holding a placard that read: “Let children who have run away from home to the Shincheonji cult be tested for the coronavirus!”

According to Ms. Lee, her daughter Jin-i, after taking the college scholastic ability test in 2013, got a part-time job at a work experience center in Jamshil, Seoul. There she met a woman that she called “elder sister,” someone who had been a “harvester” for Shincheonji. “Harvesters” are Shincheonji members who secretly go into traditional churches and trick ordinary church members into leaving and joining Shincheonji. The woman who met Jin-i looked after her like a real older sister; after winning her heart, she suggested they go for Bible study, and thus Jin-i was enticed into Shincheonji.

Ms. Lee said she had decided to come to this place and protest to Shincheonji because there was no way of knowing how her daughter was getting along, or whether she was even alive. Her demonstrations have now entered their third year. On this day, she peppered Shincheonji head Lee Man-hee’s press conference with her constant shouts: “Listen, Lee Man-hee! Are you the only one tested for the coronavirus? Let our runaway children be tested for Coronavirus 19! Give me back my daughter!”

12 Disciples Houses: Spiritual refuges, following the footsteps of Evangelist Moon Joon-gyung

“Peter’s House” on Gijom-do (do = island) in Jeungdo-myeon, Sinan-gun, South Cheolla-do, evokes an exotic atmosphere with its blue-domed, round-arched, white structure. Visiting pilgrims can meditate here in quiet self-retrospect, in a worship room just over 3 pyeong (9.9㎡) in size. Peter’s House looks out on an extensive mud flat, formed by the shallow ocean tide as it recedes twice each day. When exposed, the mud flat shows how it connects the different islands with one another.

There are 12 similar pilgrimage houses on Gijeom-do and its next-door neighbor Soak-do. They are named Andrew, James, John, Philip, etc., after Jesus’ 12 disciples. Jeungdo-myeon’s more than 90% Protestant Christian population, and the abundant historical and cultural resources related to Moon Joon-gyung, the first woman martyr in Korean history, have established these as “pilgrims’ islands.” Evangelist Moon, a native of Amtae-do in Sinan, walked along the ocean roads (paths that were uncovered at low tide) and pioneered more than 100 churches, traveling so extensively that she wore out nine pairs of rubber shoes in one year. She continued this work up to the time of her martyrdom during the Korean War.

The 12 disciples’ houses are not the exclusive possession of Christians. For ordinary people, they are self-reflective healing spaces. Going beyond religion, they serve as a common refuge that belongs to everyone. (All photos provided by Soak Church)

박여라 영문에디터 yap@kmib.co.kr

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