Cult leader detained on fraud charges

Park Bo-hi, 74, allegedly the second-ranking official of the Unification Church, has been arrested and detained by prosecutors in Seoul on charges of fraud. The church was founded by Rev. Moon Sun Myung, a controversial religious figure who has called himself the “son of God.”

Mr. Park allegedly received 2 billion won ($1.7 million) from a real estate developer in December after promising the developer the rights to build an apartment complex on land in Guri, Gyeonggi province, owned by Ilhwa Corp., a food processing company owned by the church. The sum was a down payment for the sale of the land, prosecutors said.

Mr. Park failed to make good on the promise, although the circumstances surrounding the contract are not fully known. Mr. Park returned only 1.3 billion won to the developer.

A Unification Church official told the JoongAng Ilbo that Mr. Park was no longer an official of the church, and is only a lay member. He said Mr. Park had not asked the church to pay back any of the funds that had been given to the developer. It was not clear whether Mr. Park had any church sanction for the contract.

Mr. Park was the key official in arranging for Rev. Moon to meet the late North Korean dictator, Kim Il Sung, in Pyeongyang. He founded the Washington Times, a church-owned daily newspaper in Washington, D.C. in 1982; he was also the publisher and president of the Segye Ilbo, a Seoul daily, from 1991 to 1993.

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