Krassimir Kanev, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Director, Bulgaria

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TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA

Dear President Moon,

I would like to express my concern about the recent violation of the rights of members of the Shincheonji Church in the Republic of Korea. According to credible reports over the past several years the church was labeled a “cult” by some mainstream religious denominations in South Korea and a number of its members were subjected to forced conversions. These conversions were perpetrated by members of their families and other persons in close relationships and include abductions, detention, “deprograming” and physical abuse with the aim to return the convert back to his/her “true” faith. These practices, which are entirely unacceptable from the modern human rights point of view, constitute inhuman and degrading treatment, unlawful detention and violation of the right to freedom of religion. The government should prosecute the perpetrators and should offer the victims physical and psychological rehabilitation for the damages they suffered. Toleration of these practices by the government under the pretext that they are “private matter” amounts to acquiescence into these abuses.

I am also concerned about the discrimination of Shincheonji Church members who were accused of spreading COVID-19 infection in the Korean society after patient 31, who belonged to the church, tested positive. Since then members of the church were subjected to hate speech and other types of discrimination, including intimidation, closure of premises, civil lawsuits against the church to recover damages from the coronavirus, deregistration of the HWPL and intrusion into their private lives. They were thus made scapegoats. 

The international human rights law imposes on the government of the Republic of Korea positive obligations to combat religious discrimination in all its forms. I call on the government of the Republic of Korea to abide to its international obligations and to protect members of the Shincheonji religious community from all types of human rights violations to which they are exposed at present.

Krassimir Kanev

President, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

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