Local provinces and cities are questioning the claims of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which is linked to most cases of the novel coronavirus, claiming that the secretive church has undermined their efforts to track the virus by hiding followers and continuing to run its facilities.
Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don said Saturday the city would take legal action if Shincheonji is found to have falsified the follower list that it provided to the government.
Three Busan residents who tested positive were missing from the record supplied by the headquarters of Shincheonji when compared with another one that it obtained from a Busan branch of the sect, he said.
“If there is any evidence that proves suspicion during this (cross-checking) process, or if it was a deception of citizens disguised as cooperation, we will immediately proceed with a strong legal response with the police,” Oh told reporters during a briefing.
The government distributed a series of lists received from the religious group, containing names and contacts of over 310,000 members, to local governments for them to begin check if they are infected or have symptoms of the respiratory virus. The number includes about 70,000 people, who were taking courses required to join the sect, and 33,000 overseas followers.
In the jurisdiction of Busan, 204 Shincheonji members said they had symptoms. Among them 33 people tested negative while 24 others are awaiting results. One person tested positive on Feb. 23 and other 146 have yet to undergo testing.
The city also initiated emergency inspections on Friday night following several tip-offs that people were still visiting 51 Shincheonji facilities that have been ordered to shut down.
On Friday, the Daegu city government filed a complaint against Shincheonji officials for omitting the contacts of its trainees from the list of the people belonging to the Daegu branch of the church.
Daegu has surveyed some 8,200 followers residing in the city based on the report submitted by the branch on Feb. 21.
With growing calls from citizens and the government for transparent disclosure of its members, the branch belatedly disclosed a list of 1,761 trainees. It has asserted that it didn’t hand over a list of them because the course-takers are not yet members of the church.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org)