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S Korean Cultist Jailed for 15 Years Over Raping, Brainwashing Followers

© AP Photo / Ko Bum-jun / South Korean pastor Lee Jae-rock
South Korean pastor Lee Jae-rock - Sputnik International
A prominent Korean cult leader who convinced his followers he was the incarnation of a deity was jailed on Thursday for sexually abusing eight women dozens of times over 15 years, reports say.

Lee Jae-Rock, 75, was jailed for 15 years by a Seoul court after being charged with raping eight female followers attending his Manmin Central Church multiple times.

Seoul Central District Court judge Chung Moon-Sung said that victims assaulted by the pastor "unable to resist as they were subject to the accused's absolute religious authority" and even shut his eyes as judges issued a verdict, according to the BBC.

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He purported to heal illnesses, including AIDS and disabilities, told over 130,000 devotees that he was an irresistible divine being. However, his victims were excommunicated afterwards and accused of plotting revenge against Mr. Lee, according to the leader's team of lawyers.

The cult leader has plead not guilty, but Judge Chung "through his sermons the accused has indirectly or directly suggested he is the holy spirit, deifying himself".

But the cultist has a dark history spanning decades, the New York Times reported.

"While attending his church from an early age, the victims were led to believe that the way to heaven lay in treating the accused like God and obeying him," the article said quoting Judge Chung.

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Lee had spearheaded "many mega-size crusades in and out of Korea to have become known as a worldwide and powerful revivalist," the Manmin Central Church's website said, with another page claiming that "miraculous healings have been manifested wherever [Lee] conducted crusades and revivals" and that using prayer, Lee became "a pure vessel that loved God with his whole life".

Roughly 30 percent of South Koreans are Christian, figures state. However, Mr. Lee's church was widely denounced as a cult, with the leader claiming to have cured numerous ailments, including HIV, scoliosis, cancer, and dwarfism as well as resolving climate change and stopping blizzards, the church website and others said.

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