120,000 South Koreans Rally for Punishment of Pastors for Forced Conversion

Voices demanding an investigation of the death case of the 25-year-old woman are spreading out in South Korea. The fliers informing the real culprit behind the case and a violation of human rights by forced conversion are being distributed all around Korea. This case has been reported not only through Korean media but through the media of the world including USA, UK, Germany, France, Swiss, Australia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and so on.

On January 28, 120,000 citizens in Seoul and major cities of South Korea gathered to protest against forced conversion “education” by Christian pastors and establishment of the legal framework on the punishment of violent behavior in the name of religion.

Protesters’ rally on January 28 in Seoul (Image by HRAFC)

Human Rights Association for Forced Conversion (HRAFC), a Korean civil society organization promoting social recognition of human rights violation by religion, held this rally for the demand on the punishment of Christian pastors who have “consultation” with money and encourage families to kidnap their members who have different religious orientations. Recently, a 25-year-old woman, Ms. Ji In Gu was kidnapped and confined in a pension room and found dead after she was suffocated by her parents.

The pension where Ms. Gu was confined in Hwasoon, Jeollanamdo Province, South Korea

HRAFC claims that the death is a typical case of forced conversion for the following reasons. First, Ms. Gu was out of contact after she told her friends that she would be at the family gathering. Second, the pension where she was found dead was reserved for three months. Third, physical violence between Ms. Gu and her parents led to her death while the parents stated that she was suffocated while they were “persuading the daughter”.

Protesters demand a ban on forced conversion (Image by HRAFC)

Before her death in the pension, Ms. Gu claimed that she had been taken into a Catholic monastery in Jangseong, Jeollanam-do Province on July 23, 2016. She also said that Presbyterian pastors came to her to have “education” and escaped from the monastery at 2 am on September 4, 44 days after the confinement.

In her statement, it said, “During my confinement, my family used a room called “the priest room” in the monastery and the room was reserved in my name. The phone in the drawer under the television in the room was only for the in-house call, so my mom called nuns if something is needed. After two days of confinement, two nuns came to fix the toilet in a room and said to me, ‘You must be Ji In. Make yourself comfortable.’ They seemed to know who I was. Mom said to me, ‘You are the third person who is educated here. It was hard to find a place like this.’”

HRAFC explains that this kind of illegal activities are disregarded by the police and authorities because they are “family” or “religious” problems. It further states that illegal actions are usually taken by family members, while pastors who encourage them are behind the net of the law.

Yearly number of victims of forced conversion rapidly increase since 2013. (Image by HRAFC)

“Violent behaviors including kidnapping, confinement, and attacks cannot be justified in many cases. Punishment against pastors who lead forced conversion and death of citizens is an urgent need to avoid further negative consequences,” said Mr. Sang Ik Park, co-president of HRAFC. “The victims of forced conversion exceed 1,000 people, and it is evident that there are more future victims without legal protection and careful attention by citizens is required,” he added.

“Late at night, I arrived at the monastery. Before I got off the car, my sister and mom were crying and said that they do this because we love you,” wrote Ms. Gu in her statement.

Type of human rights violation in forced conversion – blackmail/brainwash, confinement, kidnapping, assault, handcuffs/ropes, sleeping pill (from left to right – image by HRAFC)

Witch-hunt by Established Christian Group in South Korea?

According to HRAFC, forced conversion has been conducted mostly by pastors from the Protestant churches in South Korea to congregation members of religious groups as targets that the Christian Council of Korea (CCK) define as “cult”. In the name of “Cult Counseling Association”, conversion “consulting” has been conducted in Korea by 14 Christian pastors with 12 from the Presbyterian Church. The CCK is an association group of Protestant churches of Korea with conservative political ideology. Media coverages in South Korea report that forced conversion by the CCK can be seen as a series of controversial issues such as support for Japanese colonialism, the military dictatorship in the past and corruption in elections with the illegal fund.

The online petition for the punishment of forced conversion with 100,000 supports was delivered to the Blue House, the presidential office of the President of South Korea, but it was deleted on the website. The Blue House has not provided the official statement regarding this matter.

The online petition for imprisonment of pastors dealing with forced conversion became a heated discussion in the Blue House website. But it was deleted without explanations

According to a news report from the CCK organ on the issue of the petition, the president of the CCK sent a text message to Korean pastors. The message said, “The discussion on the imprisonment of pastors who work for cult is underway in the Blue House website. Visit the website and say no to the request on ‘We ask imprisonment of pastors for forced conversion’.” HRAFC said, “Virtually this is the official position of the CCK standing against investigation of the case and indicates that the CCK admits forced conversion actually exists.”

(For the article, refer to

Religion, Peace and Social Justice

“This event, which aims to target people who are living a religious life in a minor religion, has given an insecurity to the ignorant family members about religion through the use of heresy. Using force and violence against a person to change his religion is a social crime that should not occur,” emphasized H.E. Elias Chacour, Archbishop Emeritus of Melkite Catholic Church in Israel.

“This is a case of abuse of religion. This case should be seen as a crime using religion rather than a religious issue. The Korean government will have to give a clear answer about this, or it will not be able to avoid a bigger blame,” he added.

“First and foremost, religion is a matter of individual privacy between a man and his God. Religious leaders are the culprits in enforcing their chosen paths, mainly for selfish motives most of which are material gains, either for pride or monetary gains and some others because of positions in the society. We, therefore, condemn the act of killing a soul due to enforcement of religion and the government should act to bring such people to justice,” said Fadilat Sheikh Abdurahman Sulaiman Adangba, Grand Imam and the Founder of Wikayatd-Dua in Nigeria.

(This press release was written by HWPL with the provision of materials from HRAFC in order to give information on human rights issues.)