GWACHEON, KOREA, July 05, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ — An appeal trial of Chairman Man Hee Lee of Shincheonji Church of Jesus in South Korea will be held on July 7th after multiple trials earlier this year surrounding a COVID-19 outbreak in the church. In January 2021, Chairman Lee was found innocent on all COVID-19-related charges which included obstruction of government quarantine activities and violating the Infectious Disease Prevention Act. One charge that Chairman Lee was found guilty of was embezzlement of 5.6 billion won (~5 million USD) used to construct a “Peace Palace” used by the church and another organization led by Lee called HWPL (Heavenly Culture, World Peace and Restoration of Light). During the July 7th trial the church hopes to appeal the embezzlement charge for funding the building of the Peace Palace.
Chairman Lee was first arrested about 1 year ago on July 31, 2020 after a months-long investigation into the Shincheonji COVID-19 response when an isolated outbreak occurred in their Daegu church location. Korean officials requested lists of the organization’s 300,000 members (most of whom were outside of the outbreak’s location) to use for contact tracing. Investigators claimed that the submitted lists contained false or incomplete information and arrested Lee for violating the Infectious Disease Prevention Act.
However, church leaders claim that Shincheonji was cooperative with authorities and gave all the lists that were requested. The church confirmed that they halted all in-person meetings as soon as they heard of virus spread within the church. Governmental authorities were also claimed to have not recommended quarantining or wearing masks immediately prior to the outbreak in the church.
The investigation for the COVID-19 outbreak then prompted a tax probe into the church by the Korean IRS. Investigation results discovered the 5 billion won which had been used to build an event building for an international peace organization, HWPL, which Chairman Lee also heads. Lee’s former colleague Kim Nam Hee, who was head of the HWPL subgroup IWPG, also claims that the Peace Palace built was their “newlywed home” although Lee’s lawyers argued there is no private living space there and was used only for HWPL events.
Shincheonji stated that the claims made by Kim are “an intention to defame the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, or to damage its honor by simulating reports that focus on interest rather than facts.” Attorneys working for the church hope that the trial on July 7th will clear up perceived confusion of the embezzlement charge of 5 billion won.
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