JMS cult leader is convicted of rape
Jung Myung-seok, self-proclaimed messiah and founder of the JMS cult, was convicted yesterday of sex crimes against female believers and sentenced to six years in prison.
The Seoul Central District Court ruled that the 63-year-old cult leader is guilty of raping three female followers. “At the time of the sexual crimes, the victims had believed that Jung was the messiah and worshiped his absolute authority,” said presiding Judge Bae Gi-yeol. “Therefore, the victims were psychologically unable to resist the crimes.”
Bae also said the court has no reservations about handing down a severe punishment because Jung’s crimes are “extremely heinous, but he denied any wrongdoing.”
Following media reports about the abuse allegations, Jung fled Korea in 1999 and had been hiding in neighboring countries. He was extradited from China in February this year to face the charges.
During his time on the run, a series of accusations of sexual abuse surfaced in other countries as he continued to expand his cult abroad. In 2001, he fled Taiwan after authorities there began to investigate him on rape charges. In 2003, Interpol put him on a list of fraud and sex crime suspects.
After questioning, Seoul prosecutors indicted him on charges of sexually assaulting five female Korean believers from 2001 to 2006 in Malaysia, Hong Kong and China.
Of the five charges, he was convicted on three counts of rape, acquitted on one count, and one case was dismissed because the victim dropped the charges.
Jung had pleaded not guilty to all the charges, claiming that false testimony and accusations were being made against him by Exodus, an anti-JMS group founded by former followers of the cult.
Formerly a member of the Unification Church, Jung established JMS, also known as Providence, in Seoul in the early 1980s.
By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [firstname.lastname@example.org]