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A South Korean cult leader who held 400 followers captive in Fiji has been jailed for six years

A South Korean cult leader has been sentenced to six years in jail for holding some 400 followers captive in Fiji and subjecting them to violence and abuse.

Shin Ok-ju, the founder of Grace Road Church, warned of impending war, famine and natural disaster and convinced her followers to move to the South Pacific island to survive.

Once in Fiji, her followers had their passports taken away from them and some were subjected to violent beatings.

Shin was arrested after flying into Seoul on July 24 2018 on charges of forced confinement and physical assault, South Korean police said at the time. Three of her followers were also detained.

Authorities then had to grapple with how to repatriate church members from Fiji, where they said many had been stranded without documents.

A South Korean court found Shin guilty of 9 charges including assault, imprisonment, fraud, child abuse and ordering child neglect on Monday.

“The defendant not only committed assault and imprisonment but committed fraud, child abuse and ordering of child neglect,” the judge said in the sentencing paper, obtained by CNN. “The victims, on top of the sufferings listed in the indictment, had lost their family or suffered mental trauma. “

Child victims “had been rid of education and caring from the early age and had suffered greatly in proper growth and personal development,” the ruling said.

The judge noted that Shin indoctrinated her followers and ordered them to give up their savings to move to Fiji, describing it as “the only paradise land written in the Bible” where they could avoid “the Great Tribulation”. In sermons, she showed them videos of earthquakes and famines, saying repeatedly that she had found a “kingdom of 1000 years where we can live in eternity.”

Shin also told followers they must pay for visas costing 30 million South Korean won (USD $25000) per person, the ruling detailed.

Followers who had escaped from the cult told journalists about ritual beatings and abuse.

Last year, former church members told CNN that followers were subjected to public beatings, known as “threshing”, a ritual involving being slapped and hit as a supposed form of repentance in accordance with Shin’s interpretation of the Bible.

CNN News

CNN News

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