#COVID ReligiousVictims

COVID-19 Human Rights Abuses


Receiving Blame for the Pandemic in the Media

86,451 Cases of Online Hate Speech and Expression

According to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea and the Korea Insight Research Institute, there were 86,451 cases of online hate speech and expression targeted towards Shincheonji between February 2020 and May 2020 on various social media platforms, online community boards, and blogs, blaming Shincheonji for the spread of COVID-19.

An Appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council

In August 2020, NGOs and human rights activists, including the former president of the United Nations Human Rights Council, sent a joint letter to Foreign Minister of South Korea Kang Kyung-wha and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the discrimination against Shincheonji from mainstream media.

United States Commission For International Religious Freedom

USCIRF has received reports of individuals encountering discrimination at work and spousal abuse because of their affiliation with the church.

“South Korea provides a vivid example of how public health emergencies can increase the risk to marginalized religious groups.”

Mandatory Exposure Of Congregant Information

“Shincheonji and their unorthodox practices are the direct reason for the widespread of COVID-19 in our country.”

The City of Daegu and the South Korean government required Shincheonji church to provide a full list of its congregants, locations, affiliated members, and members-in-training, including those abroad. When a list was provided, accusations of missing members on the list were used to justify further probes into Shincheonji’s data servers and prosecution charges against its leadership.

The Church’s concerns about the safety of members and members’ private information being leaked to the public were ignored, despite a long history of Shincheonji members facing assault and harassment from having their religious affiliation made known publicly.

Negative Portrayal Of Shincheonji In The Press

Shincheonji Has Been Unfairly Described By Mainstream Media As “The Coronavirus Cult”, “Sect”, And “Secretive”

Vice Minister of Health Kim Kang-lip has publicly stated that the Shincheonji church has cooperated with authorities and that punitive measures against church members could complicate efforts to contain the outbreak.

Despite this, the media and the current government administration portray Shincheonji in a very negative light, casting them as the main cause and reason behind the massive spread of COVID-19 in South Korea.

Charges Of “Murder By Willful Negligence” On Leadership

5 members of the Shincheonji Church’s leadership were issued warrants for charges related to “murder by willful negligence”.

This is an unprecedented use of prosecution and law against a religious minority in South Korea, in an effort to shutter the operations of an entire religion.

Vilification Of Shincheonji Church & Members

Shincheonji Has Been Unfairly Described By Mainstream Media As A “Fringe Group”, “Cult”, “Sect”, And “Secretive”

CNN – Feb 25, 2020

“How the practices of a secretive religious sect may have played into the rapid spread of the virus.”

NPR – Feb 24, 2020

“Secretive Church Sect At The Center Of South Korea’s Coronavirus Outbreak”

Business Insider – Mar 2, 2020

“The leader of a fringe religious sect at the center of South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak has apologized as Seoul’s mayor files a lawsuit accusing the group of ‘murder’ and ‘injury'”

Jan - Feb 2020

COVID-19 Outbreak in South Korea

January 28, 2020

SCJ Church Bans Entrance for Members with Symptoms and Recent Visitors to China 

The Church announces that members exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, with recent visit history to China, or close contact to a recent traveler to China should not enter into church locations. 

Source: Shincheonji Official Website

February 10-13, 2020

Moon Downplays Risk of COVID-19, Urges “Regular Lives”

SK President Moon states the dangers of COVID-19 for regular citizens are low and encourages citizens to lead regular lives.

Moon States “COVID-19 Will Soon End” in South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae In states “COVID-19 will be terminated (in South Korea) before long,” during the session held at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul. And that domestic quarantine management “appears to have entered a stable stage to some extent.”

February 18, 2020

Confirmation of Patient 31, a congregant in the Daegu Branch of Shincheonji Church 

SCJ Church issues a public, church-wide announcement sent of Patient 31’s confirmed diagnosis

SCJ Closes All Branches and Buildings; Halts Evangelism Activity 

Closure of the Daegu Church, SCJ Church begins quarantine measures. 

Announcement to halt all services, gatherings, evangelism and outside church-related activity. 

SCJ Church Creates ‘COVID-19 Task Force’ In Response 

February 19, 2020

10 New Confirmed Patients; Disinfection and Work-From-Home Protocols Enacted

Public, church-wide announcement of 10 new confirmed patients. 

Disinfecting protocol in place through the CDC of 1,100 SCJ-operated locations. 

Directive to ‘work from home’ for office employees. 

SK Gov’s CDC Requests and Receives Daegu Service Attendee List 

CDC requests and receives list of congregants who attended services where Patient 31 attended.

SCJ Church Issues 2nd Announcement On Ban On Building Entry, Services, Gatherings 

February 20, 2020

Moon Celebrates ‘Parasite’ Movie Win while 100 Additional Cases Confirmed 

On the same day, 100 additional cases of COVID-19 are confirmed and announced, with 58 out of 100 confirmed cases being congregants from SCJ Church.

SCJ Completes Quarantine Measures for All Branches, Buildings

Completion of quarantine measures taken for all 74 branch churches in South Korea, and related buildings / meeting places (total of 1,100 locations) 

February 22, 2020

SK Gov Requests and Receives Entire Membership List (Including Abroad Members)
SCJ Requests Cooperation with CDC for All Congregants to Be Tested for COVID-19

March 2020

Scapegoating and Prosecution
Against Shincheonji Begins

March 2, 2020

City of Seoul Charges SCJ Founder and Leadership for Murder

City of Seoul seeks murder charges against SCJ Church Chairman and Founder Lee Man Hee and 11 other church leaders for “for murder, injury and violation of prevention and management of infectious diseases”. 

In a press conference that day, Park said, “We plan to hold Shincheonji civically responsible, exercising our right to indemnity not only for the wasted administrative costs from the full-scale examination of members and the associated disease control costs, but also for the diagnosis and treatment costs for those infected as a result of Shincheonji.”
SCJ Founder Holds Press Conference

SCJ Church Chairman Lee Man Hee holds a press conference expressing deep sorrow and apology for worrying the nation and the congregation, and bows twice in traditional expression of humility and apology. Lee states that SCJ Church is fully cooperating with authorities on COVID-19 measures, and announces that the Church will utilize all resources and effort in resolving the damage caused by COVID-19 outbreak. 

March 5, 2020

SCJ Publishes Guidelines on Preventative Measures 

The Church releases guidelines for congregation members on preventative measures and protocols. Included are guidelines to wear masks, wash hands, cooperate fully with CDC, avoid outside travel, and call the CDC hotline and reveal SCJ affiliation if experiencing symptoms. 

SK Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Rules SCJ Did Not Hide Membership Information 

SK’s Supreme Prosecutors’ Office begins investigation into the City of Seoul’s charge against SCJ leadership on accusations of concealing or falsifying membership information requested by the city government and the CDC. The Prosecutors’ Office, however, concludes that there is no significant difference between the list provided by SCJ and the information present in SCJ’s computer servers. 

March 5, 2020

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom calls out the mistreatment of Shincheonji 

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom expresses their concern about the blaming that the Seoul government is placing on Shincheonji for the spread of COVID-19.

March 6, 2020

SCJ Donates $10 Million for COVID-19 Efforts; Donation is Rejected 

On 3/5/20, SCJ Church donates approx. $10.1  million (USD) from church finances to the Community Chest of Korea, South Korea’s largest welfare institution to aid efforts against COVID-19. 

The donation is rejected by the Community Chest of Korea on 3/6.

March 9, 2020

City of Seoul to Revoke Corporation Rights of SCJ’s Missionary Organization 

The City of Seoul announces that it will revoke the corporation rights of the “New Heaven New Earth Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony Missionary” organization, a missionary-work focused organization owned by SCJ Church.

“The capital city earlier revealed its plan to revoke permission granted to the Shincheonji corporation on the grounds of harming public interests, and that a hearing would be held Friday to discuss its closure.” (KBS) 

March 10, 2020

City of Seoul Begins Tax Probe into SCJ’s Properties 

The City of Seoul announces to SCJ Church that the City will begin a tax investigation / probe on the local taxes associated with 30 buildings owned by SCJ Church. 

“Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon has announced plans to hold Shincheonji legally responsible for alleged hindrance of disease prevention efforts, including the presentation of unreliable lists of members. 

March 2020

The World Takes Notice of the Human Rights Violations Against Shincheonji

March 13, 2020

SK Refuses to Implement City-Wide Lockdowns or Closing Borders with China 

SK has still not implemented citywide lockdowns, and has borders open to China (except those coming from the hardest-hit regions).

“Seoul has rejected citywide lockdowns and left its borders open to everyone except those coming from the hardest-hit region of China. (PBS)

SK Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs States “Travel Bans Are Not Effective” 

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Lee Tae-Ho on not enforcing travel bans: 

The general consensus among public health care professionals seems to be that travel bans are not effective in containing contagious illnesses, and can make things worse, even, by fueling a sense of complacency.”

March 16, 2020

USCIRF Issues Fact-Sheet on Concerns of SK Gov’s Scapegoating of SCJ Church 

“The Shincheonji church has faced considerable criticism and even harassment from the South Korean government and society”.


March 17 & 18, 2020

The list provided by Shincheonji is confirmed to have no significant differences from the list collected by the authorities. 

It is determined by authorities that the information provided by Shincheonji and the information confiscated from their servers by the police contained no significant difference. 

The City of Daegu’s investigation also ruled that the roster of Shincheonji members was the same as the roster provided by the Church to Daegu officials. 


March 27, 2020

The City of Seoul revokes Shincheonji’s related corporation license

April - May 2020

Prosecution and Legal Measures Taken against Shincheonji

April 24, 2020

The City of Seoul cancels license of HWPL, a Shincheonji-Related Peace Organization 

Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light (HWPL) is a well-known international non-governmental organization focused on bringing solution to peace and ending all war and conflict. HWPL has received worldwide praise for its work and has made several MOU’s with different governments, NPOs, and universities. 

May 12, 2020

The international community and scholars condemn the scapegoating of Shincheonji in papers and forums

Shincheonji’s case is featured at the Canopy Forum, a forum run by prestigious university, Emory University. Massimo Introvigne from CESNUR spoke at the Forum about the intense scapegoating being done to Shincheonji and its congregants. 


May 22, 2020

The police begin investigation and prosecution against Shincheonji and its leadership for claims of “obstructing public health”

May 29, 2020

Shincheonji appeals against the cancellation of HWPL’s license to practice

June 2020

July 2020

Persecution Against Shincheonji Church Intensifies

June 22, 2020

City of Daegu files civil damage lawsuit against Shincheonji Church for 100 billion won ($82 million) in damages related to COVID-19 outbreak.

June 23, 2020

SCJ announces large COVID-19 plasma donation.

June 27, 2020

South Korea Central Disaster Management Headquarters states:
“There is no connection between the spread of Shincheonji and Cheongdo Daenam Hospital.”

July 6, 2020

Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office request a warrant for the arrest of 5 Shincheonji leaders.

Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office request a warrant for the arrest of 5 Shincheonji leaders including the secretary and general manager of the Gwacheon General Assembly Office of Shincheonji.

July 7, 2020

Daegu Prosecutors arrest 3 more Shincheonji Leaders.

July 8, 2020

Suwon District Court issues warrant for the arrest of 3 more Shincheonji Leaders.

July 15, 2020

Concerned human rights organizations issue letters and petitions to South Korean government officials

A coalition of non-profit and human rights organizations, led by CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions and HRWF, Human Rights Without Frontiers, signed a letter to the Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of South Korea.

CAP-LC – Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience
CESNUR – Center for Studies on New Religions
EIFRF – European Inter-Religious Forum for Religious Freedom
Fedinsieme [Faiths Together]
FOB – European Federation for Freedom of Belief
FOREF – Forum for Religious Freedom Europe
HRWF – Human Rights Without Frontiers
Human Rights Committee 
LIREC – Center for Studies on Freedom of Belief, Religion and Conscience
Mr. Nasim Malik of HRC
ORLIR – International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees
Osservatorio sul Pluralismo Religioso [Observatory of Religious Pluralism]
Soteria International

Aug - Dec 2020

Shincheonji Spreads Light to the Global Community

August 26, 2020

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) thanked Shincheonji for 562 of its congregation members donating plasma for COVID-19 treatment research. The agency requested continued collaboration with Shincheonji to hold a large-scale plasma donation drive from 26 August 2020 to 4 September 2020. 

August 27, 2020

Over 1,000 Shincheonji congregants successfully donate convalescent plasma to the Green Cross and the KCDC for the advancement of COVID-19 treatment research. Convalescent plasma is a highly sought after component for researchers who are working to find a cure and treatment for COVID through anti-bodies of recovered patients.

September 16, 2020

Shincheonji held an interfaith online prayer meeting titled “COVID-19: Overcome!
Online Prayer Meeting” to pray for the speedy end of COVID-19.

September 26, 2020

Shincheonji’s volunteer association began a ‘prevention volunteering’ campaign, with Shincheonji members volunteering to sanitize shopping districts and passing out hand sanitizers and masks to local businesses.

November 3, 2020

The KCDC announced that starting from the 16th of November, there will be approximately 4,000 additional recovered Covid-19 patients from Shincheonji who will donate their plasma for the development of a treatment.

December 2020

Over the course of 2 rounds of large-scale plasma donation drives with Shincheonji, a total of 2,798 members agreed to participate in the drive, and 2,030 successfully donated plasma.

As a result, the Director of the KCDC expressed his deep gratitude towards Shincheonji for actively participating in the plasma drive and further treatment research for speedy alleviation from this pandemic.

South Korea's Response Before 2/18

Moon Downplays Risk of COVID-19, Urges “Regular Lives”

“There is low likelihood / danger of COVID-19 here, there is no need to be daunted by it.”

“Ordinary people might as well lead regular economic lives, including consumption, as always.”

SK President Moon states the dangers of COVID-19 for regular citizens are low and encourages citizens to lead regular lives.

Moon States “COVID-19 Will Soon End” in SK

South Korean President Moon Jae In states “COVID-19 will be terminated (in South Korea) before long,” during the session held at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul.

And that domestic quarantine management “appears to have entered a stable stage to some extent.”

Unresolved Questions about Shincheonji & COVID-19

Was COVID-19 created by Shincheonji?

Should it be held responsible for gathering when there were no social distancing orders at that time?

Was Shincheonji the only church offering service in February?

Why were large gatherings even allowed at that time?

Who is gaining from persecuting Shincheonji?

Why is the media’s portrayal of Shincheonji only focused on the bad, and not the good that the church is doing?

South Korea's Response After 2/18

Moon Emphasizes Investigation Against Shincheonji in Plans to Fight COVID-19

The 31st diagnosed patient was a female congregation member of Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

After the announcement of Shincheonji congregations’ becoming infected with the virus, the South Korean government, media, and the KCDC’s reports on COVID-19 became focused on the fault of Shincheonji in the spread of the pandemic.

City of Daegu and the KCDC Demand Private Information

“Shincheonji and their unorthodox practices are the direct reason for the widespread of COVID-19 in our country.”

The City of Daegu requests and receives a list of congregants who attended services where Patient 31 attended, and security camera footage from the Daegu location.

The True Damage Incurred by Shincheonji

Over 5,510 reported cases of​ Harassment Verbal Abuse Doxing Physical Violence Kidnapping Confinement

Experienced by Shincheonji members.

Breakdown of Inflicted Damage, Discrimination, and Violence

shincheonji coercive conversion

Women aged from 36 to 70 suffered the highest rate of discrimination and attacks as a result of their affiliation with Shincheonji, 60.2% of reported cases being from women of this age bracket.

The second highest number of reported cases was from youth aged between 20 to 35. 


Most perpetrators were directly related to the victims, with 52.4% being immediate family members like spouses and parents.