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Seoul rebukes populist pastor as cases soar

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The Reverend Jun Kwang-hoon, the leader of the Sarang Jeil Church and an outspoken critic of the government, used Saturday’s rally, organised by another anti-government conservative group, to claim that the outbreak in his church had been caused by a “terrorist” attack aimed at crippling political activism.

“They poured the virus on our church,” the 64-year-old said during the rally, which drew thousands of elderly worshippers.

Christians wear face masks and maintain social distancing at a service at the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea on Sunday.

Christians wear face masks and maintain social distancing at a service at the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea on Sunday.Credit:AP

The Seoul city government had banned the rally and temporarily shut down Jun’s church, citing fears that a large gathering would help spread the virus.

More than 4000 church members were ordered to self-isolate for two weeks and submit to a test.

The pastor ignored the order, and was accused of violating self-isolation rules by participating in the rally. He was also accused of “obstructing” epidemiological investigation by failing to submit a full list of church members for testing and tracing. The city said it would sue Jun.

Writing on his Facebook page, Moon said: “Many of those who needed to be in self-isolation turned out in street protests, raising the serious possibility that they have spread the virus to protesters who came from around the country.

“This is a clear challenge against the disease-prevention system of the state and an unpardonable act against the safety of the people.”

Lee Man-hee, chairman of the secreative Shincheonji Church of Jesus was arrested as part of an investigation into how thousands of worshippers were infected in February and March.

Lee Man-hee, chairman of the secreative Shincheonji Church of Jesus was arrested as part of an investigation into how thousands of worshippers were infected in February and March. Credit:Yonhap/AP

Another Christian sect, Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was at the centre of the country’s largest outbreak of COVID-19 infections in February.

The secretive group was linked to 36 per cent of total cases and, on August 1, authorities arrested Lee Man-hee, its founder, for allegedly hiding crucial information from contact tracers.

Kwon Jun-wook, a deputy director of the Central Disease Control Headquarters, warned of “early signs of a large-scale resurgence of the virus”.

The government has tightened social-distancing rules in Seoul and Gyeonggi, which have a combined population of about 20 million people.

Under the new rules, spectators will be barred from professional baseball and football games.

The Telegraph, London

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