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Prosecutors arrest cult leader over couple suicide

Dec 15,2017
Prosecutors arrested a cult leader on Thursday for instigating the suicide of an elderly couple last month. They also arrested the couple’s daughter for abetting her parents’ suicide.

The 83-year-old man committed suicide with his 77-year-old wife. They met the cult leader, a 63-year-old woman, in the United States, where the man lived as a pastor for 30 years.

He accepted the cult leader’s invitation to attend a religious meeting where she led “the gathering of kindred spirits who drank tea, talked and prayed together.”

After several sessions together, the couple became fully indoctrinated and followed the woman to Korea in 2014 after settling their finances.

In Korea, the couple rented a four-bedroom house in a small village in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi, together with five other followers, including their 43-year-old daughter.

There, the cult leader constantly reminded her followers that she “was a prophet who had received God’s revelations.”

She demanded complete obedience from them, forbidding them from speaking or even acting without her permission.

In the weeks preceding the suicide, however, the cult leader began convincing the couple that they were possessed with a “dragon,” or the devil. She urged them to repent and go to where God was waiting for them.

On Nov. 11, she and the daughter drove the couple to a bridge overlooking the Bukhan River in Gapyeong, from which the couple jumped off.

The father was found dead the next day in the river. Though the mother is still missing, she is believed to have been swept away by the currents.

On Thursday, the Uijeongbu District Prosecutors’ Office detained and indicted the daughter and the cult leader for abetting and instigating the suicide of the couple.

The cult leader is currently denying that she was responsible for the double suicide, arguing that she only escorted the couple to the bridge because they had requested her help to take them closer to God.

She also denied her role as leader of the cult, though records show that she was previously charged and found guilty of leading a pseudo-religious community several years ago.

The cult leader did admit that she believed the couple to be possessed because she suspected them of engaging in immoral activities during their frequent, long visits to the bathroom.

She also admitted to making the husband watch “Pororo the Little Penguin,” a Korean animated TV series for toddlers, so that his heart could be purified.

The daughter initially denied involvement, but when CCTV footage surfaced showing her helping her parents into the car and driving them to the bridge, she explained that she had lied out of fear that she would be punished for driving without a license.

“Though initially we suspected the daughter and the cult leader of abandoning the elderly couple on the bridge,” prosecutors explained, “we decided to drop the charges of abandonment after the doctor, who had previously examined the couple, confirmed that they suffered no mental illnesses.”

BY CHOI MORAN, KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]