The Shinchonji Cult

PRI’s The World continues to have some pretty fascinating stories I wouldn’t otherwise come across. Recently The World told us about colorful taxi cab ceilings in India. Now, their Matthew Bell is covering this crossover between two of my favorite subjects, South Korea and doomsday cults, in Shinchonji:

Lee, the director of the Bible study center I visited, says she has been a member of Shinchonji since 1999.

“We offer a very deep course of study into the Bible,” she says. “This is different than other churches.”

“The students would like to come to class seven days a week, but we limit it to five,” Lee says.

“Shinchonji members are very successful in life,” Lee adds. And then, without being asked about it specifically, she says that some members of Shinchonji have had problems maintaining relationships with their families and keeping up with their careers. But she says such cases are the exception.

Throughout my visit to the study center, a young Korean man in a jacket and glasses points a digital camera at me as I do interviews and observe the scene. When I say his filming is making me uncomfortable, he puts the camera down for a few minutes. Then, he goes back to filming me.