About 155 youth groups with one million members from 62 countries around the world on Monday, August 10, sent a joint letter to the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres and UN affiliates, including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) over human rights violation and religious oppression in South Korea.
The joint letter contained a request for recommendations to stop discrimination against Shincheonji Church, a new Christian denomination headquartered in South Korea, and a UN ECOSOC-affiliated organisation named Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL).
The representative of the groups and founder of Free Watch Afghanistan, Mobeenullah Aimaq, said that he agreed with the UN’s concern over the persecution of minorities and vulnerable groups as well as human rights violations that continue to occur in the pretext of fighting the coronavirus.
To solve the problem, he proposed a joint letter to young people around the world to appeal to the international community. He strongly urged that the Korean Government should knock off the prosecution of Shincheonji Church and HWPL in South Korea.
“Prosecuting Shincheonji Church and HWPL should be immediately stopped so that the international reputation of the government, known as a proponent of peace in the globe, would be saved,” he said.
In the letter, they reported the several acts of unfair discrimination and oppression of the Korean government and the media against these organisations, citing the concerns of UN Secretary-General regarding “disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, and the targeting of vulnerable groups.”
According to reports, there have been over 5,500 instances of human rights abuses of members of the Shincheonji Church during this period of the ongoing pandemic. Among the cases include two female members’ death in suspicious circumstances. Many of these victims are promising young people who are now facing increased discrimination at workplaces and schools, violence at home, and even forced deprogramming.
The letter highlights that the members of Shincheonji Church are also victims who were unfortunately infected with the virus despite following the government’s guidelines related to the pandemic.
Furthermore, the unprecedented custody investigation against 89-year-old Chairman of Shincheonji Church, Man Hee Lee, and HWPL was recently determined.
The charters of these two groups have been revoked by the government and they have been subject to rigorous tax investigations. Those in leadership positions within the organisations also have been taken into custody for questioning.
In the Korea Times column titled “Can unpopular sect expect justice?” Michael Breen, CEO of Insight Communications, referred to the current investigation into Shincheonji Church as a “witch-hunt” by saying that Shincheonji is a safe target for politicians and others who comment in public since it is unpopular.
In the joint letter, the groups urged that cases of human rights, social and religious repression, such as the ones occurring in South Korea, must be put to an end in order to “build more effective and inclusive solutions for the emergency of today and the recovery for tomorrow.”