Jun Kwang-hoon (Yonhap)
As soon as he had recovered from COVID-19 on Wednesday, Jun Kwang-hoon, who leads the Seoul-based Presbyterian church that has emerged as the country’s second-biggest virus cluster, called the government’s antivirus measures a “fraud” designed to destroy his church.
The far-right pastor repeated his claim that President Moon Jae-in and his administration were oppressing him for holding anti-government rallies, at a press conference held in front of his Sarang Jeil Church in Jangwi-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul. It was held hours after his discharge that morning from the Seoul Medical Center, where he was sent after testing positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 17.
“The government has been trying to remove me and our church whenever it finds a chance. They tried to put all the blame on us with the new coronavirus but failed thanks to wise judgment made by the public,” he said.
Since the first case in the church was detected Aug. 12, a cluster there had been linked to 1,117 infections as of Wednesday at noon. Some 1,400 people connected to the church still haven’t undergone testing, according to health authorities.
Jun, along with many of his church members, participated in an anti-Moon protest held at Gwanghwamun Square on Aug. 15 in breach of a self-isolation order. The rally is tied to another 441 positive cases of the coronavirus.
Proclaiming himself a prophet who leads South Korean churches, Jun said he will risk his life to fight against the president.
“I will wait and see for a month, but if President Moon continues to deceive the people with national infidelity and false (promises of) peaceful reunification (with North Korea), I will put my life on the line in a month. I am ready to be martyred.”
Jun and his church are facing criminal charges and damage suits that could cost them billions of won.
On Wednesday, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency raided Jun’s home and three church facilities to seize evidence on suspicion that he obstructed the government’s antivirus response.
The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters and the Seoul Metropolitan Government had filed police complaints against Jun, accusing him of deliberately providing incorrect lists of church members to the government after mass transmissions occurred.
Over 140 merchants running shops near the church plan to file a class-action suit against the church later this month for damages incurred because customers began avoiding the area due to the church’s uncooperative response to virus control measures. Church members clashed with police and health officials trying to disinfect the premises and search for a membership list.
On Tuesday, the Seoul city government said it would exercise its right to indemnity against the church for hampering authorities’ efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 over the cost it spent to treat them. The state-run National Health Insurance Service, which estimated the treatment costs for patients connected with the church to be some 6.5 billion won ($5.48 million), also plans to take similar action.
On Aug. 15, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office asked the Seoul Central District Court to revoke Jun’s bail, saying he had breached his bail conditions.
Jun was indicted in March on charges of breaking the country’s election law by asking attendees of a rally to support the conservative bloc in the April 15 general elections. He was released in April under a bail agreement that he would not take part in any rallies or protests that could be found to be illegal or related to the charges he faced.
Ruling Democratic Party of Korea officials called on the Seoul court to immediately begin proceedings to revoke Jun’s bail. “Jun should take responsibility for his irrational and delusional actions,” said Choi In-ho, the party’s new top spokesman.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org