Kukmin Daily Newsletter (Issue 52)

May 25, 2021

Greetings from Seoul!
Last week the National Council of Churches in Korea, with its nine member denominations and five member organizations, announced a “2050 carbon neutrality declaration.” All the church members will participate in this Missio Dei for our time, hoping that we can end the climate crisis and restore God‘s creation. The season of Pentecost reminds us that God is with us at every step. We pray to the Holy Spirit for help.
This newsletter reports on a warning by the churches of Korea and Japan against the Japanese government‘s plan to release nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean. Another article tells about Shincheonji’s new tactics to gather more converts.

Korea-Japan joint declaration: “No release of radioactively contaminated water!”

The churches of Korea and Japan have issued a joint statement condemning the Japanese government‘s plan to discharge contaminated water into the ocean, and demanding an immediate halt to it.

The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and the National Christian Council in Japan (NCCJ) announced the statement on April 29 at a “Worship Service For Protection of All Life Against Discharge of Contaminated Water Into the Fukushima Ocean.” The service was held in Jongno-gu, Seoul, near the Statue of Peace, the “little girl” monument to victims of Japanese military sexual slavery during World War II. (photo) At the worship service, which was sponsored jointly by Korean Christians for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power, and the Green Church Network, the statement was read aloud by a representative from each of the two churches: Park Yeong-rak, director of NCCK‘s Justice and Peace Department, and Rev. Yuki Nagao of NCCJ.

They declared, “The churches of Korea and Japan warn that the Japanese government‘s announced plan to discharge radioactive water into the ocean is a clearly criminal act that will slowly lead humanity to death… The Japanese government must immediately withdraw its plan to release Fukushima’s contaminated water into the ocean, and undertake positive cooperation with neighboring countries and international society to manage the contaminated water in a safe manner.” They also urged the Korean government to “undertake detailed investigation, together with the Japanese government and international society, into the situation of Fukushima‘s radioactive water, the danger of food contamination, and the likely effects on the human body if the contaminated water is released.” And to all the people of the world, they requested “mutual cooperation and solidarity for sustainable coexistence in Earth’s ecosystem.”

“Yes, I‘m Shincheonji”: More aggressive propagation through disclosure of identity

In a recent video aired on a YouTube channel, a young man says, “Yes, I‘m Shincheonji. So?” This video clearly symbolizes the “open propagation” strategy being followed nowadays by Shincheonji, Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (Shincheonji).

Previously, Shincheonji evangelists have mostly used the method of “strategic intrigue,” hiding their identity to get close to prospective converts, and only revealing it when their doctrinal education seems to have been accepted. But the complications of the COVID-19 situation last year, including the court trial of Shincheonji leader Lee Man-hui, made people more wary of the cult, and its propagators had to put on the brakes.

This past February, Leader Lee sent out a special order: “Each evangelical section is to evangelize by email and videos, and each mission center is to evangelize through its staff and missionaries; and these activities are to be reported every month to the General Assembly‘s evangelism department director,” thus instructing the organization to return its focus to propagation.

Recently a “2021 Information Booklet on Shincheonji Church of Jesus” also appeared on the Shincheonji homepage. It contains an introduction to Shincheonji‘s history and doctrines, and gives a positive explanation of last year’s situation, when the cult was denounced for violating anti-COVID-19 rules.

According to Eschatological Bureau Director Yun Jae-deok, “Because Shincheonji‘s use of intrigue to win over converts was given a beating by society after the start of COVID-19, now it is trying an open evangelizing method, going public to a certain extent… Nevertheless, it has still not eliminated the old method from within.”

Shincheonji has also been caught moving to renew its street propagation and its attacks against traditional churches. A former Shincheonji member testified on his YouTube channel about a recent experience as the target of propagation by someone who looked like a Shincheonji believer. He said the believer approached him for “an opinion survey for development of a cell phone app.” The YouTuber said, “I was suspicious at first, and as I listened, I found the pitch to be 100% the same as the one I used when I was a member… Shincheonji is doing street evangelizing, so watch out.”

Shincheonji Leader Lee said on April 27 in a message to believers via the religion‘s internal “Internet Zion Mission Center,” “Each branch and planning department is to obtain the book of Protestant Christian telephone numbers… After getting the phone numbers and email addresses, tell each of them ten times, a hundred times, that the truth is in Shincheonji.”

Director Yun‘s diagnosis: “It’s to save Shincheonji, because the organization‘s survival depends on its growth.” He called the street evangelizing “a desperate measure.”

박여라 영문에디터 yap@kmib.co.kr

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