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“Wait a minute, am I in a cult?” Student Reveals How She Joined South Korean Church

A college student has revealed how she was “brainwashed” into joining a South Korean cult that “monitored what she did and who saw her” while in college.

Jess, from Manchester, was ‘vulnerable’ after recently losing her father when she was approached by two strangers from the Shincheonji Church of Jesus at the University of Salford and invited over for ‘coffee with god’.

While the meetings simply started out as weekly Bible study groups, things quickly evolved and Jess soon discovered that the group was in control of who she saw and what she did.

Speaking with the BBC, she said she became a “completely different person” while in the cult, explaining, “Controlling others for me is really out of character, so I had gotten this far into being brainwashed.”

Jess, from Manchester, has revealed how she was 'brainwashed' into joining a South Korean cult that 'monitored what she did and who saw her' while in college

Jess, from Manchester, has revealed how she was ‘brainwashed’ into joining a South Korean cult that ‘monitored what she did and who saw her’ while in college

Jess, a former physical therapy student, was recruited to the Church while on the University of Salford campus.

She explained how two strangers, who she thought were students, approached her on campus and invited her for “a cup of coffee with God.”

Jess added: “I had been through a huge loss by suddenly losing my father and at that point I was already so vulnerable.

“They asked me, ‘Oh, are you a Christian?’ From then on, we met each week for just one-on-one Bible sessions.”

Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which translates as 'new heaven and new earth', was founded in 1984 and describes its founder Lee Man-Hee as the 'Promised Pastor'

Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which translates as 'new heaven and new earth', was founded in 1984 and describes its founder Lee Man-Hee as the 'Promised Pastor'

Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which translates as ‘new heaven and new earth’, was founded in 1984 and describes its founder Lee Man-Hee as the ‘Promised Pastor’

Jessi said she had no idea the cult couple were Shincheonji, explaining, “That’s “the greatest deception and the greatest manipulation.”

The movement, which translates as ‘new heaven and new earth’, was founded in 1984 and describes its founder Lee as the ‘Promised Pastor’.

He has been widely described by other Christian groups as a false prophet or cult leader.

The group has an apocalyptic and messianic character and has been described as a doom-thinking cult.

Lee Man-Hee: The ‘immortal’ leader of a secret cult that allegedly bullies its members into silence

Lee Man-Hee (pictured), whose cult has 74 churches in South Korea, is considered “immortal” by 120,000 followers and even the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

  • Lee Man-Hee, now 88 years old, is the founder of Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.
  • His group has been accused by Christian authorities around the world of being a secret cult that… infiltrates churches and ‘cheats’‘ recruit.
  • Lee, whose cult has 74 churches in South Korea, is considered by 220,000 followers as ‘immortal‘ and even the second coming of Jesus Christ.
  • Very little is known about the cult, but it is said to be so strict and obsessed with secrecy that its members are bullied in silence.
  • Lee’s critics accuse him of: self promotion, as his alleged trip to UAE in 2015 to pose for photos and improve his credentials at home.
  • Others – often other religious authorities – claim that he was a ‘false prophet‘.

The group is known for its aggressive and deceptive conversion practices.

“Shincheonji adherents believe that Lee Man-hee is immortal and has eternal life,” said Ji-il Tark of Busan Presbyterian University in South Korea.

“To spread their faith, they often approach their relatives and acquaintances or sneak into other churches without telling them that they are Shincheonji members.”

But things soon turned ominous for the student, as she described being in church as “absolute mind control.”

Revealing that a buddy system was used to watch over new recruits, she explained, “To know if someone is involved or not and always find a way to involve them…just supervision really.”

Jess took intensive Shincheonji classes in a room at the university and went to a temple, which at the time was located on a business park.

Jess said she went through 'a tremendous loss when she suddenly lost her father' when she was approached and recruited by the church

Jess said she went through 'a tremendous loss when she suddenly lost her father' when she was approached and recruited by the church

Jess said she went through ‘a tremendous loss when she suddenly lost her father’ when she was approached and recruited by the church

She said, ‘I became a completely different person. My mindset was completely different, I had lost motivation for my studies.

“All my concentration was solely on Shincheonji’s activities.”

Jess became so immersed in the cult that she started recruiting others.

Jess’ assistant professor Linda Hollingworth was concerned about her and explained that the student was not well.

She said: ‘You missed quite a few sessions and didn’t interact and when I asked your friends where you were they said they didn’t see you either. It just felt wrong.’

After being recruited into the top secret cult, Jess took intensive Shincheonji classes in a college room and went to a temple.

After being recruited into the top secret cult, Jess took intensive Shincheonji classes in a college room and went to a temple.

After being recruited into the top secret cult, Jess took intensive Shincheonji classes in a college room and went to a temple.

But just as Jess began to have doubts about the Church, Shincheonji hit the headlines at the start of the pandemic.

In February 2020, it was found that more than half of all coronavirus cases in South Korea could be linked to the secret ultra-religious sect.

The outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Korea initially occurred in the city of Daegu after a 61-year-old Shincheonji member known as patient 31 infected other church members, exacerbating the pandemic in Daegu.

As the disease spread to members of Shincheonji and thousands of others, there was a national outcry against the group, and by February 22, 2020, more than 1.3 million South Korean citizens signed an online petition to the Blue House calling on the government to completely disband Shincheonji.

When the news made headlines around the world, Jess said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen Shincheonji being labeled a cult.

“For a moment I just thought, ‘Woah wait a minute, am I in a cult?’

But just as Jess was beginning to doubt the Church, Shincheonji hit the headlines at the start of the pandemic (pictured, the cult leader)

But just as Jess was beginning to doubt the Church, Shincheonji hit the headlines at the start of the pandemic (pictured, the cult leader)

But just as Jess was beginning to doubt the Church, Shincheonji hit the headlines at the start of the pandemic (pictured, the cult leader)

“Because we were encouraged not to google anything about Shincheonji, something we all followed.

‘But when I researched the organization myself, I was really shocked.’

Shocked by her discoveries, Jess went to tutor Linda and her story came out.

With the help of her tutor, she fled the city and wiped out all her contacts.

She said: ‘Even when I left Manchester early that morning, there was still that sense of fear and paranoia that someone was looking at me. ‘

Jess studied remotely and finished her degree saying, “I definitely feel like I’m in a much better place and I’m able to share my story with others confidently and just raise awareness.”

Meanwhile, Rod Dubrow-Marshall, professor of psychology at the University of Salford, said: ‘The group matters to people in the way it works.

“I’m not saying that everyone is affected in the same way. but there are some instances where people lose touch with their loved ones, give up their jobs and livelihoods.”

Shocked by her discoveries, Jess went to tutor Linda, who helped her escape Manchester and escape the cult.

Shocked by her discoveries, Jess went to tutor Linda, who helped her escape Manchester and escape the cult.

Shocked by her discoveries, Jess went to tutor Linda, who helped her escape Manchester and escape the cult.

The university told the BBC it has rules about how religious groups can interact with students and that they are aware of this.

A statement from the University of Salford said: ‘We encourage students to report if they or anyone they know has been subjected to any coercion, manipulation or abuse, whether at home or in any other environment.’

Meanwhile, Shincheonji denied it is a harmful cult and said it does not groom, monitor, brainwash or manipulate members.

It said it is not secretive and that its beliefs can be found online. People are told the name of the church when Bible studies begin.

It said members should not devote much time to the Church and are not encouraged to neglect university.

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