Young and Vulnerable
Shincheonji is often accused of being a cult and has faced intense public criticism over South Korea coronavirus outbreak, one of the largest in the world.
More than 60 percent of the country’s 7,869 cases are linked to the group, most of whose members are women and many are in their 20s and 30s.
Officials say that has been a key factor in the South’s low death rate from the virus, at 0.84 percent, far below the WHO’s global average — the virus is much deadlier among older generations, particularly men.
The concrete 1980s complex — where units rent for as little as 22,000 won ($18) per month — is just two kilometers (a mile) from the group’s Daegu base.
The sect employs aggressive recruitment tactics, said former member Kim Jong-chol, who spent more than 10 years proselytizing before disavowing it in it 2013.
“Recruiters target young people because they are socially vulnerable with low self-esteem as they find it increasingly difficult to find jobs after college graduation,” he said.
“With a mounting sense of insecurity, many find it all but impossible to avoid falling victims to a con job.”