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15-Year Jail Term Sought for Doomsday Cult Leader

The Korea Times, 9 July 2000

Prosecutors have demanded a 15-year jail term for a doomsday cult leader on charges of defrauding nearly 1,500 followers, including lawyers, public servants, school teachers and military personnel, of more than 30 billion won.

The Seoul District Prosecutor’s Office demanded harsh punishment for Mo Haeng-ryong, 66, the cult leader, and 41 other officials on fraud charges under a special law related to business crimes. Prosecutors also placed 113 other officials on the wanted list on similar charges.

This is the largest religion-based fraud case yet in terms of the number of people involved and the financial damage.

Mo began to gather his followers in 1985 by conducting ki practices and professed himself to be a god from heaven. He formed a religious cult while advocating a doomsday scenario that the world would come to an end in the year 2000.

His cult, Chonjonhoi, set up 20 chapters across the country and began full-blown frauds targeting his followers.

The prosecution charged Mo and his key officials with committing nearly 2,500 loan frauds against banks and other financial institutions over the last 10 years. The amount of confirmed damage is estimated at 38.4 billion won, including 3.5 billion won which was directly donated by followers.

But investigators speculate that the nationwide total related to the cult’s frauds would reach nearly 150 billion won, if unconfirmed damage is included.

The fraud case especially shocked the nation as many of the followers who had been the target of frauds had professional jobs. Many of them were driven into rupture for their involvement in the cult, losing jobs, getting divorced and attempting suicide.

The cult leader forced his followers to cross-guarantee loans and sell homes in the name of building a holy place.

He spent 10 billion won on forming the First Millennium Group,which had 10 affiliates, including a food company, under its wing and poured 15 billion won into building the holy place in Hongchon, Kangwon-do.

Mo and his wife have been enjoying a luxurious life both at home and broad while committing several real estate-related frauds in some South Pacific islands.