COVID-19: South Korea’s Church-Linked Outbreak Turns Into Battle Over Religious Freedom

Sarang-jeil church in Seoul yet again at loggerheads with President Moon Jae-in government.

Sohil Nikam

August 20, 2020

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in has found himself surrounded by accusations of curbing religious freedom yet again, even as his government fights to contain the COVID-19 situation in the country. The Sarang-jeil church in Seoul, run by the Shincheonji religious group has been reported as the new epicentre for the spread of coronavirus in the country. Hundreds of attendees of the church’s congregation have reported positive for the virus, and around 400 of them are yet to traced by authorities.

A result of this latest COVID-19 wave has been that the Moon Government has announced a ban on all religious gatherings in churches in Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan areas. This has provoked followers of conservative religious groups and resulted in a push back from them. The incident reflects a déjà vu-like situation from February this year when followers of the same religious group were infected with the virus in the southeastern city of Daegu, setting the stage for an outbreak that raged throughout the country.

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