The Korea Herald


Investigative documentary series tell stories stranger than fiction

By Lee Si-jin

Published : March 6, 2023 - 16:38

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Poster image of “In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal” (Netflix) Poster image of “In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal” (Netflix)

While streaming services generally seek to entertain viewers with unique originals, Netflix and South Korea’s largest streaming service Wavve are sending shock waves across the country with their latest documentaries.

Netflix released its third Korean documentary series “In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal,” featuring four Korean religious cult leaders -- Jeong Myeong-seok of Christian Gospel Mission, better known as Jesus Morning Star, Park Soon-ja of Odaeyang Church, Kim Ki-soon of Baby Garden and Lee Jae-rock of Manmin Central Church -- who all claim to be saviors of humanity.

The eight-part documentary series presents the religious cult groups' origins, how they rose to power and little-known stories about the four leaders, featuring interviews with those who left the cults. The series was produced by MBC with MBC producer Jo Sung-hyun.

Much airtime was given to JMS and its leader Jeong, who is currently awaiting trial for sexually assaulting female followers.

Premiered on March 3, “In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal” instantly rose through the charts, topping the Korean Netflix chart and beating smash-hit drama series “Crash Course in Romance” and “The Glory” as of Monday.

Meanwhile, Prosecutor General Lee Won-seok ordered that all efforts be made to hand out strict punishments for the crimes committed, according to local news reports.

Released from prison in 2018 after serving a 10-year prison term, Jeong was arrested once again for alleged sexual violence and crimes against two followers – a Hong Kong-born British citizen and another born in Australia -- in 2022.

The local pseudo religious group filed for an injunction to stop the release of the Netflix documentary series about Jeong, the request was denied by the Seoul Western District Court. In doing so, the court said the series does not seem to include false claims and is backed by a considerable amount of objective and subjective data.

"In the Name of God" also features the mass suicide of Odaeyang Church members in which a total of 32 people, including the cult leader Park Soon-ja, her family (except for her husband) and followers, were found dead in 1987.

The series continued with the Baby Garden incident in 1996 where a seven-year-old child was killed for his lack of faith, as well as the Manmin Central Church's terrorizing of MBC aimed at stopping the broadcaster from airing a TV show featuring their leader Lee Jae-rock in 1999.

Poster image of “National Office of Investigation” (Wavve) Poster image of “National Office of Investigation” (Wavve)

Meanwhile, on March 3 local streaming service Wavve premiered “National Office of Investigation,” a documentary series helmed by star director Bae Jung-hun who was behind two hit SBS shows -- the investigative series “Unanswered Questions” and the talk show “While You Are Tempted."

The first three episodes presented the unknown sides of the National Office of Investigation -- one of the national police organizations in South Korea -- and its efforts to solve a murder case in Busan and a drug crime case in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.

The series ranked third on Wavve's real time chart upon its premiere and contributed the most to the increase in the number of paid subscribers to the platform, quickly becoming its most-watched documentary series as of March 3, according to Wavve.

Two episodes of the 13-part documentary series will be released at 11 p.m. on Fridays.

“People say that the viewers don’t need to take variety shows or TV dramas too seriously because many of them are scripted. They say those shows are just for entertainment,” a 33-year-old office worker surnamed Kim, who works at a retail company in Incheon, told The Korea Herald.

“But investigative TV shows are proving that the stories featured in TV dramas are not to be taken lightly. This includes the recent revenge drama ‘The Glory,’ which talks about school violence, and ‘In the Name of God.’ I hope more content is made not only to entertain, but to send an important message that such tragedies should not be repeated again,” Kim added.