Religious and Political Turmoil in South Korea Fueled by Controversial Pastor

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Reverend Jun Gwang-hoon is a 63-year-old Presbyterian pastor in South Korea that has been in the Korean news in recent days. He is the leader of a church of Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul. On 11 November 2019 the New York Times published an article titled, “The Populist Pastor Leading a Conservative Revival in South Korea” by Choe Sang-Hun. It was reported, “Mr. Jun has attracted huge crowds to his rallies in central Seoul in recent weeks, forcing President Moon Jae-in’s justice minister, Cho Kuk, to step down. He is also demanding Mr. Moon’s resignation, ?calling it, ‘an order from the Lord.’”

According to Hwang Gui-hag, editor in chief of the Seoul-based Law Times, Rev. Jun claims, South Korean President Moon is a “North Korean spy.” Despite outlandish claims, he states this controversial leader’s “strategy works, making him a force that cannot be ignored.”

In January 2019 Rev. Jun ?was elected as the President of the Christian Council of Korea (CCK). According to the CCK website, the CCK was established in 1989 and consists of 61 denominations and 20 Christian organizations. This has given him more influence among conservative christian groups. 

In October Mr. Moon’s Democratic Party launched an investigation of  Rev. Jun based on charges of inciting insurrection after he attempted to convince members to form a group to invade the presidential Blue House as an act of rebellion. 

Despite such troubling reports, the anti-government rallies hosted by Rev. Jun are growing in popularity. On 22 October 2019 Rev. Jun held a protest in front of the Blue House and ranted extreme statements. One such claim was that “[President] Moon Jae-in has already been disposed of by God. The Republic of Korea will revolve around Pastor Jun Gwang-hoon [himself] for the next ten years.” Another deeply troubling declaration was, “God, freeze! If God messes with me, he’s dead. This is how close I am with God.” According to an article in the Korea Times published on 10 June 2019 titled, “Radical Pastor Calls for Impeaching President Moon” by Kang Hyun-kyung, radical statements such as these are drawing a “slew of criticism from a number of fellow Protestant leaders.” Detractors state he is politicizing Christianity for his own gain. In the same article Pastor Kim- In Ki states, Rev. Jun is “using ‘fear politics’ inside the Christian group to repress his opponents.” and “released a statement urging Jun to step down.” The controversy surrounding Rev. Jun has stirred an upset in the Christian and political communities in South Korea for several months and the turmoil seems to grow with each of his rallies and protests. 

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