The Sarang Jeil Church, which recently emerged as a hotbed of mass coronavirus infections, hit back at President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday, criticizing him for making accusations that the religious group obstructed the government’s antivirus fight.
A statement issued from the “emergency committee representing participants of the Aug. 15 rally” said the church had actively cooperated with health authorities to contain the novel coronavirus by voluntarily shutting down the facility and providing a list of members and visitors.
As of Tuesday at noon, 915 cases related to the church, led by far-right pastor Jun Kwang-hoon, have been confirmed. Local reports say the church has around 4,000 members.
On Monday, the president said that the government won‘t tolerate any “malicious and systemic” acts of obstructing the antivirus fight, including the spreading of “fake news.” He called such acts an “anti-social crime that harms the community.”
The group also raised issue with Moon for stating that “no religious freedom, no freedom of assembly or freedom of speech can be claimed, if it is incurring a great deal of damage to the people.”
“(Holding) worship services is a fundamental (aspect) of religious freedom. We are not convinced as to why only Christian worship services should be banned,” it said.
The church also called on the Moon administration to raid the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which held a rally on the same day the church carried out its own.
Some 193 people tied to mass rallies, chiefly led by conservative groups, held in Seoul have been confirmed as of Tuesday at noon. A number of municipalities, including Seoul, are taking legal action against alleged rally participants in their jurisdictions for their refusal to get tested and cooperate with the government’s efforts to stop the further spread of the virus.
On Tuesday, Democratic Party of Korea Floor Leader Kim Tae-nyeon urged members of the KCTU to get tested, saying, “There are no conservatives or progressives in quarantine.”
Some 1,900 members of the KCTU gathered near Bosingak Pavilion in Jongno-gu for a national workers’ meeting on Aug. 15, defying the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s administrative order that forbade large-scale rallies. To avoid violating the order, the event took the format of a press conference, not a protest.
A court allowed some groups that challenged the city’s administrative order banning the gatherings to carry out rallies as planned, citing the city government’s excessive restriction on the right to freedom of assembly with the cross-the-board ban.
According to the KCTU, 60 percent of the nearly 1,900 people who attended its rally have undergone testing and reported test results to the union. Of them, a union worker at Kia Motors, the country’s second-biggest automaker, who tested positive on Aug. 22, was the only person who was confirmed to have been infected with the virus.
The union said it issued a guideline to all event participants to get tested on Aug. 20 prior to the government’s recommendation for testing.
“The KCTU implemented preemptive and active measures before the government’s recommendations and executive orders to dispel public anxiety and concern as the spread of COVID-19 is accelerating in the aftermath of rallies led by extreme conservatives at Gwanghwamun Square,” the group said.
It pledged active cooperation with the government’s quarantine measures, although it suggested that there’s a possibility that the Kia Motors union member may have contracted the virus through another source, as a case had already been detected at the car factory where he works before the rally took place.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org