South Korean preacher arrested after stranding her cult in Fiji
Shin Ok-ju held as former members of Grace Road Church tell of violent beatings
A South Korean cult leader has been arrested after abandoning 400 of her followers in Fiji.
Grace Road Church founder Shin Ok-ju and three other senior members of the group were arrested at Incheon International Airport on Sunday, according to a statement by police in Gyeonggi province.
Shin is accused of confiscating the passports of 400 of her followers, stranding them in Fiji, as well as overseeing a tyrannical regime in which members were forced to labour on rice farms and inflict savage beatings on one another.
As leader of Grace Road Church, Shin preaches an apocalyptic brand of Christianity which has been “pinpointed by major Korean church denominations as heretical”, Korean Christian newspaper The Kukmin Times reports.
In 2014, Shin began prophesying a disastrous famine, encouraging her devotees to found a new colony on far-flung Fiji, which she said would offer them the best chance of survival.
Hundreds left their homes and travelled 5,000 miles to the South Pacific island, where they were “ordered to live together in a small community under the supervision of ‘guardians’ handpicked by the pastor”, the Korea Times reports.
Guardians forced members to take part in a ritual called “threshing ground,“ in which they were told they had to beat each other or face God's punishment.
A former member of the cult told a TV interviewer that one young member “had to hit his father more than 100 times”. Another followed sustained serious brain damage from injuries inflicted during one of the bloody ordeals.
A handful of members have been able to escape the community and raise the alarm with South Korean authorities, but the vast majority remain in Fiji.