South Korea’s Shincheonji Church of Jesus won a lawsuit against the city of Seoul for cancelling its corporate permit in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SEOUL, KOREA, ovember 16, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ — The Seoul Administrative Court has ruled that the revocation of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus corporation license early in the COVID-19 pandemic was unlawful. On September 9th, the South Korean church filed a lawsuit against the city for cancelling the nonprofit organization’s permit in March of 2020 before the pandemic was officially declared.
The cancellation of the permit came shortly after a COVID-19 infection surge occurred in one of the church’s locations in early 2020. The cases were discovered after an unknowingly COVID-19-positive congregant attended a worship service and transmitted the virus before the government had recommended avoiding large gatherings. While the church took steps to control the spread of the virus, including moving all in-person meetings to online-only, local governments forced shutdowns of the churches and banned members from meeting together in-person. The mayor of Seoul at the time, Park Won-soon, revoked the church’s corporate permit, stating that Shincheonji Church had seriously violated the lives and safety of the people in COVID-19 epidemic.
Korean officials then accused church leaders of not complying with the Infectious Disease Prevention Act after “false and incomplete” lists of over 300,000 congregation members (including those outside of Korea) were requested and submitted for contact tracing purposes. When lists of members’ identities were leaked, thousands of human rights violations were reported in response to verbal and physical assaults on “outed” Shincheonji congregation members. Several Shincheonji Church leaders of various church locations were arrested and tried under the Infectious Disease Prevention Act, but all were found innocent by the end of trials in early 2021.
Newest developments in the case are unfolding as investigations into the government’s handling of the Shincheonji COVID-19 outbreak are continuing. Regarding the closure and assembly ban of Shincheonji churches and members, an August 8th court ruling found that the administrative measures taken by the Gyeonggi province last year were not lawful.
Shincheonji Chairman Man Hee Lee was also acquitted of violating the Act after spending over 100 days in custody and months of court trials.
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