Oral statement 41th Session of the HRC
Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience

Forcible Deprogramming of Members of Shincheonji in Republic of Korea

At the end of the 20th century, courts of law in the United States and Europe outlawed the criminal actions of “deprogrammers,” private vigilantes who kidnapped members of groups labeled as “cults,” after having been paid significant sums by their parents or relatives, kept them imprisoned, and submitted them to heavy physical and psychological pressures until they agreed to renounce their faith.

One of the few countries where deprogramming, often performed by Christian pastors, is still going on is Republic of Korea. Members of a movement called Shincheonj are the most frequent victims of deprogramming. They report 1,287 deprogrammings since 2003. And two members of Shincheonji, Ms Sun Hwa-kim in 2007 and Ms Gu Ji-in in 2018 died during deprogramming.

Republic of Korea authorities have not taken adequate actions against the deprogrammers. Relatives who hired the deprogrammers have sometimes been punished, but not the deprogrammers themselves.

We ask the Republic of Korea government to investigate in depth accusations of forcible deprogramming, put a stop to this obnoxious practice and to its support through hate speech against Shincheonji, and hold those responsible accountable.

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