This is not religious persecution

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This is not religious persecution

More than 2,000 devout followers of a maverick Christian sect supposedly led by Yoo Byung-eun, the de factor owner of the Chonghaejin Marine Company, the Sewol ferry’s operator, were virtually in a war against law enforcement officers’ imminent entry last weekend into Geumsuwon, their compound, in Anseong, Gyeonggi. Forming a human barricade in front of the complex, hundreds of them chanted combative slogans: “Stop religious persecution!” and “We will fight with martyrdom!” Yoo is presumed to be hiding in the compound.

Prosecutors are not interested in the dogma of the radical faction. They merely seek to question Yoo and his eldest son over breach of duty, embezzlement and tax evasion allegations involving the shipping company. More than 300 passengers - mostly high school students on a field trip to Jeju Island - were killed in the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry last month.

The indigenous Christian faction partially exposed the mysterious compound to the press yesterday before denying Yoo’s connection to the sect and his status as its leader. If their words are correct, an investigation of a person who has nothing to do with the faction does not constitute religious persecution. Moreover, an official of the sect told reporters that Yoo was inside the compound, which the man later denied. The prosecution only needs to confirm whether Yoo is there.

Everyone is equal before the law. The Christian sect must help law enforcement officers to investigate Yoo so that he can potentially clear himself of false charges, if there are any. That’s the only way to resolve the mounting suspicion among the public. If the group continues to claim religious persecution, it will only help to intensify Yoo’s connection to the sect. According to a few members of the Christian faction, Yoo often delivered pro-government sermons in the 1980s and ’90s, underscoring the importance of honoring the incumbent power. If that’s the case, there is no reason for his supporters to follow the double standards Yoo himself adopted.

Yoo’s avid followers are ridiculing the authority of the law enforcement agency at a rally in front of the religious compound. Prosecutors must bring him to justice by raiding the complex without fearing that they are persecuting believers.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 19, Page 34

Correction and rebuttal statement by the Evangelical Baptist Church

The Korea JoongAng Daily, regarding the reports since April 16, 2014, about the Evangelical Baptist Church (EBC) and Yoo Byung-eun, is publishing the following corrections and an excerpt from the rebuttal statement by the EBC.


Through three past investigations by the prosecution, it has been revealed that Yoo and the EBC, also known as the “Salvation Group” and Guwonpa in Korean, are not related to the Odaeyang mass suicide incident. That was also confirmed by the prosecution in its official statement on May 21. The prosecution’s investigation also found that Yoo had not made an attempt to smuggle himself out of the country or seek political asylum in France. We, therefore, correct the concerned reports.

Yoo retired from his executive management position in 1997. He did not own any shares in the noted companies, nor had he managed operations or used the operating funds for personal reasons. There are no grounds to call him the actual owner and chairman of the company. As such, he did not provide any directives in regards to the overloading of the Sewol ferry or its renovation.

It was verified that the captain and crew members who abandoned ship at the time of the Sewol ferry accident are not members of the EBC. It has also been verified that the EBC does not own any shares of Chonghaejin Marine Company and did not engage in its management.

Rebuttal statement

The EBC’s position is that the museums in the United States and Europe can never authorize an exhibition unless the artistic value of an artist’s works is recognized by the screening committee, irrespective of the amount of money an artist donates. The EBC’s position is that the exhibitions were not a result of Mr. Yoo’s patronage or donation, and Yoo also has not coerced Chonghaejin and its affiliates to purchase his photos.

The EBC states that Yoo did not participate in the foundation of the EBC in 1981, and the church does not offer him the title “pastor.” It also says a significant part of the 240 billion won ($206 million) worth of assets suspected of belonging to the Yoo family are real estate properties owned by the farming associations, which had been established by church members.

The EBC states that there are certain churches in Korea that call the EBC a cult, solely based on differences between their’s and the EBC’s doctrines.

But the EBC does not worship a particular individual as a religious sect leader or preach any doctrine that contradicts the Bible.

지난 주말과 휴일 기독교복음침례회(속칭 구원파)의 본산인 경기도 안성 금수원에는 2000여명이 넘는 신도들이 쏟아내는 결사항전의 목소리로 가득찼다. 수백명의 신도들이 정문 앞에서 인간 바리케이드를 치고 “종교탄압 중단하라”는 구호를 외쳤고 일부는 “순교도 불사하겠다”는 말도 서슴지 않았다. “김기춘 실장, 갈데까지 가보자”는 플래카드도 며칠째 입구에 나붙었다. 이들의 주장은 한마디로 검찰 등 공권력이 자기네 땅에 발을 들여놓을 수 없다는 것이다. 금수원이 마치 치외법권 지대인 ‘소도’나 되는 양 구원파 신도들은 ‘인의 장벽’을 치며 검찰의 정당한 법 집행을 막고 있다.
검찰이 수사하는 것은 구원파의 기독교 교리 위반이나 과거 오대양 사건과의 관련성을 추궁하는 게 아니다. 청해진해운을 실질적으로 지배하면서 업무상 배임·횡령 및 조세포탈 혐의로 사전구속영장이 발부된 유병언 전 회장과 아들 대균씨를 수사하겠다는 것이다. 이들 부자가 300명이 넘는 사망·실종자를 낸 세월호 사건과 관련해 책임이 있는지를 수사를 통해 가리겠다는 것이다.
구원파는 이날 언론에 금수원 내부 시설을 공개한 뒤 기자들에게 유 전 회장이 구원파의 교주도 아니고, 관련성도 없다고 밝혔다. 그 논리대로 라면 구원파와 관련 없는 유병언 전 회장에 대한 수사가 어떻게 종교탄압이 될 수 있나. 신도들은 교주도 아닌 사람을 지키기 위해 인간방패를 만들고, 김기춘 대통령비서실장을 위협한 셈이다. 게다가 구원파 관계자는 이날 기자들에게 유 전 회장이 이 시설 안에 있다고 말했다가 이를 부인하기도 했다. 그렇다면 굳게 닫은 정문을 열어 유 전 회장이 있는지, 없는지 확인해주면 된다. 공권력의 투입을 극렬하게 막을 하등의 이유가 없는 것이다.
법 앞에 만인은 평등하다. 종교인도 예외일 수는 아니다. 구원파는 유 전 회장이 당당하게 검찰 소환에 응해 자신에게 씌워진 누명을 적극적으로 벗도록 설득하고, 그가 수사에 협조하도록 해야 한다. 그래야 신도들의 주장대로 구원파에 대한 세간의 오해도 풀릴 수 있다. 만일 지금처럼 종교탄압 운운한다면 구원파와 유 전 회장의 관련성만 부각될 뿐이다. 유 전 회장은 1980년대 기독교복음침례회 삼각지 서울교회에서 목회활동을 했을 당시 “세상 권세에 순복해야 한다”는 성경 말씀을 인용해 신도들을 가르쳤다고 한다. 자신의 사업에 유리할 땐 권세에 순복하라고 가르치고, 불리하면 종교탄압을 들먹이는 이중성을 보이고 있다. 이런 이중성까지 구원파 신도들이 따르지 않길 바란다.
국민들은 금수원에서 벌어지고 있는 종교를 빙자한 법 무시 행위에 대해 차가운 눈길을 던지고 있다. 대한민국의 공권력이 금수원 앞에서 조롱당하고 있는 현실을 지켜보는 심정은 불편하기 짝이 없다. 검찰은 종교탄압이란 비난에 좌고우면하지 말고 즉각 금수원에 공권력을 투입해야 할 것이다. 그 곳에 유 전 회장이 숨어 있는지를 확인하고, 반드시 그를 법정에 세워 법의 엄정함을 보여줘야 한다.
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