Pastor sentenced to 15 years in prison for raping followers after telling them it was an "order from God"
The Seoul-based Manmin Central Church has refuted the allegation against its leader Lee Jaerock, accusing some former devotees of spreading "false rumors" motivated by jealousy
A leader of a megachurch in South Korea has been sentenced to jail for 15 years after it was discovered that he raped eight of his female followers and told them that he was "only following orders given by God himself."
Seventy five-year-old Lee Jaerock is the head of the Seoul-based Manmin Central Church, which claims that it has 133,000 followers as well as more than 10,000 branches and associate churches around the world.
The Washington Post reported that a South Korean court said in its ruling that Lee denied "objective facts" when the investigation was going on and did not show any remorse for his actions during the trial. He was also expelled from the Christian Council of Korea back in 1999 for what the organization called his "heretical" beliefs.
The Korean Ministry Association also called him a "cult leader" after he claimed that he was "without sin and was exempt from dying." The court said that Lee was using the faith and devotion of his followers in order to sexually abuse them. The ruling stated: "The victims, who attended the church since childhood, believed that obeying Lee as a godlike figure is the path to heaven."
The court also added: "Apparently the victims were psychologically positioned to be powerless to disobey Lee, and Lee took advantage of their status to commit the crime."
According to The Korea Herald, all of Lee's victims were in their 20s at the time the assaults took place. The court said: "The victims believed him to be a divine being who wields divine power. They would have accepted Lee’s behavior as a divine act, rather than a sexual one, and gave up questioning him, thinking that it would constitute a sin."
The Herald also reported that eight rapes happened between the late 1990s and 2015 but Lee has been facing rape accusations for decades. Back in 1999, a South Korean television channel broadcast a documentary that criticized the pastor and his claims that he was able to cure illnesses. In response to this documentary, around 300 of his followers stormed the station in protest.
Lee is also reported to have obtained a court order that blocked another story about his salacious sex life, which was set to be aired by the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation. In spite of all the allegations that revolved around his private life, Lee traveled extensively around the world by taking up invitations to preach in other churches.
The Manmin Central Church has repeatedly claimed that he performed miracles in order to cure illnesses. The church lauded Lee's "overseas crusade" on its website during which time, allegedly, "countless have received God’s healing of such incurable and terminal diseases as AIDS, cancer, and the like on the spot when Rev. Dr. Lee prayed not by placing his hand on each of the sick but merely for all from the pulpit".
The church has also denied all the allegations that were made against Lee, according to The Herald. It only said that the preacher has long been "stressing the importance of sexual ethics" to his congregation and also accused some of his former devotees of spreading "false rumors" about him that were allegedly motivated by jealousy.