[Monthly Politic & Economic News: June 2012 Edition] Jung Myung Seok Case: Social or Religious?

DCG trying to bring Jung Myung Seok’s case back into public eye

Writer: Cheon Won-Ki | Minjung News 31st May 2012

Due to a certain press conference and some news reports from ex-members of the Christian Gospel Mission (the president of the organization is Jung Myung Seok), past incidents have once again been brought into the spotlight. This so-called ‘JMS controversy’ was covered by the media after receiving reports from an anti-JMS organization in 1999.

It came to prominence as a social issue and ended when President Jung Myung Seok received a 10-year sentence on April 23, 2009, following a 10-year legal battle. Since last November, ex-members of CGM have formed an organization called the JMS Damage Control Group (hereafter DCG), and are once again trying to bring the JMS case, which had faded, back into the public eye by demanding class compensation from CGM and President Jung.

Due to incorrect reporting by the media, CGM is mistakenly known as JMS to the public. JMS is the acronym for Jesus’ Morning Stars, the name of a faith movement to become Jesus’ morning stars, and is not actually the organization’s official name. In this article, CGM will simply be referred to as the Mission, but will be referred to as JMS as appropriate to context.

DCG’s claims

The DCG’s current claims are almost identical to the claims in the past. There were mainly two types of claims. The first is that President Jung Myung Seok systematically took sexual favors as bribes from his aides and that the sexual crimes are still happening. The second is that President Jung systematically incited members of the Mission to commit violence against dissenters and is instigating violence even in the present.

  Through protests demanding compensation and media reports, the DCG has been forming the public’s perception of the CGM controversy as a social issue. However, because the Mission has not yielded to them, they have been pressing multiple charges, accusations and petitions.

  On the other hand, a few media outlets that had previously reported on the DCG’s claims later published corrections to what became inaccurate reports. One media company uncritically re-stated the DCG’s claims, which was that President Jung had been committing sexual crimes presently, while in prison. The report was letter fixed and the media expressed regret and apologized for defaming the CGM.

No Evidence to DCG’s accusations of Jung Myung Seok

  At present, the primary reporters of issues concerning the Mission are only a few Christian media outlets. Major media organizations appeared to be cautious of the sensationalization of these controversies about the Mission, because there was no rational evidence to support the DCG’s accusations and a few noticeable contradictions. This is one of the reasons why, when the Mission sued the DCG for compensation and requested the SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) — which had been reporting about JMS since 1999 — to redact their broadcasts, the court recommended mediation between SBS and the Mission.

The court later affirmed the order against SBS to compensate the Mission. Several journalists have exposed the fact that Kim Jin-hyung (pseudonym), the DCG representative, was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment and had been put on probation for three years because of fraud. There were suspicions that he forged a certificate of ordination to become a pastor of the Orthodox Christian headquarters. The journalists even cautioned the public to not fall for Kim’s public opinion herding.

DCG: “JMS is a social problem.” The Mission: “The DCG is herding the public without evidence.”

Since February, Kim, the DCG representative, had been claiming that he had been stalked and threatened with violence. He accused President Jung Myung Seok of instigating murder and reported the alleged stalkers to the Namyangju police. However, this accusation was dismissed, and the investigation was closed on April 2.

Controversy stirred by DCG member Min

In a separate case, another former CGM member, Mr Min, had assaulted an opposer of the Mission and had been on the run for nine years. Recently, Mr Min turned himself in and at a press conference on March 28, he alleged, “President Jung Myung Seok instigated the acts of violence.” Mr Min originally claimed that he had committed the crime under the directions of Pastor Kim, a pastor of the Mission. That claim was made to the press on March 13. However, on March 28, he changed his statement, while attending the press conference with Pastor Kim, to, “the crimes were instigated by Pastor Jung.”

Moreover, to prove that President Jung Myung Seok had instigated violence, he further stated, “President Jung directed Mr Lee to commit violence. While he did not give explicit directions to me, I received encouragements from him in a phone call when he said that he would pray for me.” However, it was later disclosed in court that Lee’s actions, which Mr Min had relied on as proof, were in fact undertaken by his own volition and not by President Jung’s directions. Mr Lee had already served his two-year sentence, handed down on July 20, 2006.

At that time, the fore-runners of the anti-JMS movement, Kim Do-Hoon (pseudonym) and those who accused President Jung, had also petitioned the court for information on who was behind the assault committed by Mr Min. A close examination of this case reveals that Min had blatantly accused President Jung Myung Seok of directing acts of violence without any evidence. Despite that, the Christian journalists joined him in his ploy. They gave statements, both before and after the press conference, to the effect of, “It has been exposed that President Jung had directed violence against former members.”

Controversy stirred by DCG member Jang

Mr Jang, also a member of the DCG, caused an uproar by staging a one-man protest against the running away of his two daughters who were attending the Mission’s churches. Without proper editorial oversight, the Christian media published a one-sided report of Jang’s claim that he was assaulted by a group from the Mission. The result was another false report that the Mission had to clear up.

  Contrary to Jang’s claim, his two daughters had been living with him and his wife for the last two years. His two daughters said, “The DCG representative, Kim, had stirred up our parents and caused them to even quit their jobs to protest against the Mission.” They pleaded, “We are no longer attending church, just as our parents wanted. So please help us to put an end to these protests and restore harmony to our family.”

In 2010, Jang continued to stage his one- man protest, claiming that his daughters had run away from home because of JMS. However, a police investigation revealed that his daughters were forced to run away from home due to the father’s perpetration of domestic violence, and forceful attempts to make them leave JMS. The daughters had to seek protection from a women’s shelter. The Mission disclosed that Jang had been staging his one-man protest in busy vicinities of private education institutions, and had also been putting up posters of provocative images and texts there. The people from those institutions complained about him making profane remarks at passing women such as, “You are a prostitute, aren’t you? How much money did you sell your body for? You filthy b****!” The police had to be involved in one such complaint.

The Mission’s concerns

The Mission also disclosed that Jang had a skirmish with two female members of the Mission in public, in front of pedestrians and police officers. There were no physical fighting or assault. The Songpa police are currently investigating this. The DCG uses provocative claims to generate gossip and lure public attention. However, their claims lack concrete evidence. While they are fighting legal battles now, it is yet to be known whether they would be successful.

As for the Mission, they are concerned that history would repeat, that is, the history of an anti- JMS organization herding public opinion without evidence and thus, influencing the outcome of President Jung Myung Seok’s trial. The Mission views President Jung’s trial as unjust, being influenced by false reports made by those who opposed the Mission for the purpose of monetary profit.

Money is at the heart of the conflict

It is apparent that money was what caused the conflict between the DCG and the Mission. The DCG’s argument is that people should be compensated for their offerings given that President Jung Myung Seok had been deemed a criminal by the Supreme Court. The people were deceived, when they gave their offerings, and should be compensated for those losses. The Mission’s argument is that most of the former members claiming compensation had continued to attend church faithfully even after the trial. Demanding compensation on the basis that they were decided only now, three years after the trial, is unreasonable.

Controversy stirred by DCG representative Kim

According to the Mission, Mr Kim, the DCG representative, was significantly in debt. They think that is why he spreads falsehood; leveraging the fact that President Jung Myung Seok is in prison and exploiting the media as the weapon to resolve his financial problems. Kim had promised his debtors that he would repay them. On October 12 of last year, he had even presented an agreement, in which he would drop his lawsuits against the Mission, in return for hush money.

Kim was quickly arrested for blackmail, extortion and defamation on April 20, and is currently being investigated by the Gwangju Bukbu Police. There are people who have been calling for a retrial, after it was exposed that an anti-MS organization had demanded money during President Jung’s trial. In February 2010, several media outlets publicized video footages of anti-JMS leaders, which exposed that they had demanded two billion won (1,800,000 USD) from the Mission on November 17, 2005. The media also published the anti- JMS leader’s letter of self-reflection dated November 15, 1999, and his apology letters to the Mission dated March 17, 2005 and July 21, 2005.

In these letters, detractors made statements such as,
“I deeply regret that I schemed against President Jung Myung Seok, dishonored him through fabricating scandals, and deeply hurt him,”and, “We apologize for misunderstanding, defaming and insulting him”

On August 3, 2005, President Jung Myung Seok replied to Kim, “Even if people love one another, when they fight, they become enemies. As Jesus said, those who fight become enemies of each other, giving distress to their hearts. This torment only brings harm to one another. For six years, you were the source of my worries and pains. After you thought about me, you confessed that I was not a bad person. Yet, you continued to demand money. To that, I can only ponder.”

Kim escalates accusations

Negotiations involving Kim’s demand for money from the Mission broke down. Afterwards, he called a press conference for April 18, 2006, at which he brought along the women who claimed that President Jung had harmed them in China. The media scrambled to report about President Jung Myung Seok being guilty of sexual assault in China and bringing international shame to Korea. Because of the accusations of those who opposed JMS, President Jung was arrested in China, imprisoned and later extradited to Korea. In the end, he received a 10-year sentence, despite contradictory testimonies and an absence of rational evidence. The judge’s emotions and intuitions determined the verdict, in the absence of conclusive evidence.

Is this JMS controversy a religious battle caused by a religious reformation?

The Mission asserted that the combined efforts of a Christian witch-hunt and the commercial media had formed the public’s opinion and this in turn, influenced President Jung Myung Seok’s trial.

Because of its differences to Christian doctrines, the Mission had been deemed a cult. About this, the Mission explained that historically, countless many became victims because of controversies for being cults, which also happened to Jesus, in his time. Around 2000 years ago, Jesus was also deemed to be a cult leader by the Jews, and was crucified on the basis of public opinion, without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Bias weighed against President Jung Myung Seok in his trial. Christian groups brought their influence to bear on the trial, having already deemed President Jung to be a cult leader, and by public opinion he was already branded a criminal prior to the trial. A Mission spokesperson noted, “It was the Christian Council of Korea that petitioned the court for a guilty outcome in President Jung’s trial. Moreover, the major opposers of JMS are aligned with the Christian groups. This gives rise to a conflict of interest.” 

Doctrinal differences on the Purpose of Creation and the Fall

The Mission’s doctrines are different to some Christian teachings. This has caused controversy from the time the Mission began until now. The doctrine which caused the most conflict was the purpose of creation and the fall. The Mission interprets the account of Adam and Eve eating the fruit of knowledge of good and evil in Genesis as the act of committing sexual sin. The Mission teaches that the law of creation is for a man and a woman to love God as first priority and to grow accordingly, after which they may have sexual relationships after marriage. However, Adam and Eve violated this principle and received punishment. With this as its fundamental doctrine, the Mission has continually taught people to remain chaste until marriage.

However, Christianity has been teaching that the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil is a literal fruit, or that it symbolizes other things. The Mission and Christianity do not teach the same on this topic. The purpose of creation and the fall also caused conflict with the DCG. The DCG claimed that President Jung Myung Seok used this theory to teach people that love with God can be restored through sexual union with him, the Messiah. However, there was no evidence to prove this, and so it ended only as an allegation.

Conflict between JMS and its opposers stems from money issues and Christianity’s opposition to doctrinal differences

  The Mission refuted this claim, “I wish that you would see the truth and not the rumor. President Jung has been teaching about salvation through love. That love is spiritual love; mental love with God and Jesus. President Jung is not God. He is a person who testifies about God’s love through his actions. His video recorded sermons and manuscripts spanning 30 years of preaching are evidence of this.” Further, he stated, “Those who mistook spiritual love to be physical loved failed to correct their mistaken perceptions and so they left to create conflict. They have caused tremendous damage, as tens of thousands of members are reviled by society, even while leading clean and morally upright lives, practicing abstinence to sex, alcohol and cigarettes.”

The conflict between JMS and its opposers stems from money issues and Christianity’s opposition to cults. Such conflict will not be easily resolved. The persistent conflict between Judaism and Christianity is proof of this. About this JMS controversy, a leading Christian figure stated (in a phone conversation), “Being a religious organization does not mean that there would be no conflict. Conflicts may arise for various reasons; in particular, money can be a reason if the conflict is deep and cannot be easily resolved.

He continued, “Likewise with JMS, the conflict will end only when one side steps down completely.” Regarding the Christianity-entrenched controversy of anti-social cults, a Jewish scholar and teacher, Gamaliel, once gave this advice, “Leave these men alone! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” [Acts 5:38-39]

Archived Original Article (Korean)

The english translation and pictures are released for public use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

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