Cho Hee-seong, 72, a religious leader who was once sentenced to death for ordering killings within his Yeong Saeng (“Eternal Life”) Church, died Saturday of a heart attack he suffered while imprisoned at Seoul Detention Center.
Mr. Cho received a death sentence in February for ordering members of the church to kill six other members between 1990 and 1992. Last month, however, a higher court overturned the verdict, saying he hadn’t ordered the killings, merely helped those who’d committed them to escape investigation. The court reduced his sentence to a two-year prison term. At the time of his death, Mr. Cho was awaiting the result of an appeal he’d filed with the Supreme Court asking it to vacate the two-year sentence.
According to police, Mr. Cho showed signs of trouble on Friday and was moved to a hospital near the detention center, where he died.
The Ministry of Justice said Mr. Cho had been living in a special cell for older inmates. “When he was sent to the hospital, he was sweating a little, but other than that he was aware of his surroundings. But when he was diagnosed by the doctor, he suddenly lost consciousness,” a ministry official said.