Wanted cult leader may be repatriated to South Korea

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 12:00am

Arrested in HK, the fugitive is sought over a rape allegation from a follower

The spiritual leader of a controversial South Korean religious cult is facing repatriation to answer criminal inquiries after he was arrested by Hong Kong immigration officers this month.

Jung Myoung-seok, 58, the founder and leader of the International Christian Association, was arrested about three weeks ago for overstaying his visa.

He is wanted by South Korean police investigating a rape allegation from one of his followers.

Mr Jung left South Korea in 1999 after a media report accused him of sexual assault, and he has since been in exile in Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

He has been released on bail and has already hired a lawyer to appeal against repatriation.

At present there is no extradition agreement between Hong Kong and South Korea.

Mr Jung founded the so-called Ae-Chun Church in 1980 and it became affiliated with the Methodist Church.

The church was later expelled from the Christian body and he changed its name to the International Christian Association.

Mr Jung also wrote the '30 lessons', which criticise Christian teachings and beliefs and end with his adopting the role of Jesus Christ at the second coming.

It is believed his church has at least 40,000 members in South Korea and many more from its overseas branches in Taiwan, Japan, the United States and Hong Kong.

A spokesman for the South Korean Consulate General confirmed that Mr Jung was wanted by the police in connection with a rape case. 'If he is repatriated to South Korea, he will face arrest,' he said.

But he refused to offer more details about the case and Mr Jung's situation in Hong Kong.

'It is not appropriate for us to comment on cases which are under the Hong Kong government's jurisdiction,' he said.

The Immigration Department also refused to comment on the case. But it is understood that Mr Jung has already overstayed in Hong Kong for more than six months.

His arrest was the result of tip-offs by informants from an anti-JMS (Jung's initials) network in Korea called Exodus.

The network, formed by some of the cult's ex-followers, has closely tracked the movements of Mr Jung since he left South Korea.

A police spokesman said they were not investigating Mr Jung and had received no reports of him being connected to crimes in Hong Kong.