Cult head gets harsh new sentence
Upholding a lower court conviction, an appeals court yesterday handed down a 10-year prison term to Jung Myung-seok, a self-proclaimed messiah and founder of the JMS cult, for sex crimes against female believers.
Jung had been indicted on charges of sexually assaulting five women during his time on the run in Malaysia, Hong Kong and China from 2001 to 2006.
Following media reports about earlier abuse allegations, Jung fled Korea in 1999.
He was extradited from China last year to face prosecution.
The Seoul Central District Court initially ruled last August that Jung was guilty of raping three out of five alleged victims.
The Seoul High Court ruled yesterday that Jung is guilty of a total four counts of rape, overturning one acquittal and handing down a heavier punishment.
He was originally sentenced to serve six years in prison, but the newest sentence by the high court is a decade of imprisonment.
About 70 JMS followers heard the verdict in the courtroom, and some of them shed tears as the court pronounced the sentence.
Formerly a member of the Unification Church, Jung established JMS, also known by the names Jesus Morning Star and Providence Church, in Seoul in the early 1980s.
In a separate but related trial, the Supreme Court ruled in January in favor of two former female followers of JMS who demanded monetary compensation for Jung’s sexual abuse.
The court at the time ordered Jung to pay 10 million won ($7,231) to one woman and 50 million won to the other.
By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [firstname.lastname@example.org]