The Korea Herald


[Newsmaker] Shincheonji founder Lee Man-hee tested for coronavirus

By Korea Herald

Published : March 1, 2020 - 14:44

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

The founder of a religious sect at the center of a coronavirus outbreak in South Korea underwent testing Saturday for the new virus, reports said Sunday.

The results were not available as of press time.

Lee Man-hee, 88, started Shincheonji Church of Jesus in 1984 which now has 12 branches nationwide and some more in other countries.

‘(He) has been in self-isolation like other (Shincheonji) believers,” an official at the church said.

Shincheonji, regarded a heretic by mainstream churches here, has been linked to more than half of domestic coronavirus cases, including a massive number in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province.

While health authorities struggled to track down Shincheonji followers and their close contacts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the much-veiled leader did not make any public appearance.

Earlier in the day, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon urged Lee to take responsibility and fully cooperate with the country’s efforts to stop the rapid spread of the virus via its congregants. A failure to do so will be tantamount to “murder by inaction,” he said, while urging the state prosecution to investigate Lee.

Over 73 percent of over 2,500 cases reported in Daegu, the hardest-hit city, were traced to the group’s church there.

The second-largest cluster of the virus, Daenam Hospital in nearby Cheongdo, appears to have links to Lee, as his older brother received inpatient treatment for five days before dying there on Jan. 31.