A 75-year-old South Korean pastor Lee Jae-rock was arrested in May and has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on Thursday for raping eight female followers of his mega-church. But he denied the allegations accused on him. He claims that the women are just doing this for revenge against him after they were excommunicated for breaking the rules of the church.
Lee is charged with 42 counts of sexual harassment and sexual assault against the eight victims. The eight female victims said that they are unable to resist Lee because they were subject to the accused’s absolute religious authority. The victims who were in their 20s were repeatedly assaulted and even sexually assaulting multiple times. One of them said that they were called by their pastor into his apartment and forced them to have sex with him. Some of them were even part of the church since they were kids. Five of the victims decided to leave the church, but in the wake of the #MeToo movement, they were encouraged by a fellow victim to come out and report the incident to find justice.
According to judge Chung Moon-sung told the Seoul Central District Court, “Through his sermons the accused has indirectly or directly suggested he is the holy spirit, deifying himself.”
Lee tells his followers that he was carrying out an “order from God.” He is the head of the Manmin Central Church which started in 1982 with only 12 followers. And now, he has followers of more than 133,000 and even has 10,000 branch and associate churches around the world. His church is known to be associated with cults of some dominant Christian organizations. He claims that he can heal people, change the weather and heal AIDS. They have a huge auditorium, and headquarters as well as their website with lots of promises of miracles. Even with all his popularity, Lee was rejected by the Christian Council of Korea in 1999 because of his controversial issues.
Aside from the verdict of 15 years in jail, he was also ordered to have undergone 80 hours of sexual violence therapy program, and even banned from working with children for ten years.