A religious group hosts an on-campus fashion show, an event that could be linked to a web that includes Interpol, South Korea and alleged rape.
Members of a controversial religious group, led by an international fugitive wanted for numerous instances of alleged rape and sexual assault of female members, recently held an event at UCSD, which included a modeling show featuring young women, singing and videotaped religious messages from the group’s founder €” hallmarks of the group’s tactics to recruit new members.
The group, known as the Global Association of Culture and Peace, was established by 61-year-old South Korean national Jung Myung Seok, who also goes by the name Joshua Jung. The group, widely regarded by international press as a cult, also goes by several other names, including JMS, Providence, Setsuri and the Bright Smile Movement.
Jung, who established the cult nearly three decades ago, has been wanted by both Interpol and the South Korean government since 1999 after rape allegations became public, according to several Asian newspaper reports.
Jung was formally charged with rape in 2001, and was captured in Hong Kong in 2003, but posted his own bail and avoided South Korean extradition charges. His whereabouts have been unknown since then, although he is rumored to be hiding in China, according to Peter Daley, an English professor at South Korea’s Keimyung University and a dedicated critic of Jung who established an extensive Web site aimed at exposing GACP’s activities after his roommate became involved with the cult.
Since the allegations became public, numerous other women have come forward with similar accusations. According to July reports from Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, more than 100 women have said they were sexually abused or raped by Jung under the pretense of religious purification.
“There is a history of abuse with this group,” Daley said. “So many girls get raped by its leader.”
GACP is most active in Asian countries but has branches worldwide, Daley said. It concentrates its membership recruitment activities at elite universities, including the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Osaka University, National Taiwan University and, recently, UCSD.
“Most of the former members I have spoken to encountered JMS on a university campus,” Daley stated in a February 2006 article in the Keimyung Gazette. “Younger girls are also targeted for recruitment.”
The cult seeks members, according to Asahi Shimbun, by organizing sporting events, modeling shows, dance shows and other activities before inviting participants to Bible study sessions, where they are subsequently influenced to accept cult teachings that declare Jung as the true messiah and regulate members’ sleeping and eating patterns. Former members have said that the group engages in brainwashing and extensive secrecy, and uses fun activities to build trust with recruits before introducing them to Jung’s teachings.
GACP’s event at UCSD, called “Autumn Fantasy: The Spirit of Harvest,” was held on Oct. 22 in Price Center Ballroom.
The event featured an evangelical message from Pastor David Baker, singing, a modeling show with the theme “Developing Beauty from Within,” dance performances and a videotaped “inspirational message” about perseverance from Jung himself.
Organizers spoke during the function about Jung’s extensive knowledge of Biblical teachings, saying Jung had read the Bible 1,000 times, and referenced a story about lessons of ignorance involving a young girl who traveled with Jung in Taiwan.
“I’ve never met a man who loves God and who loves Jesus as much as Joshua Jung,” an announcer said at the event.
In his video message, which was translated from Korean, Jung addressed the UCSD on-campus audience specifically.
“I am very busy,” Jung said on the video message. “For me to come out to a small meeting like this is a big deal.”
The event, sponsored by UCSD’s Korean Student Cultural Association, had been in the works since April.
Former Ko.SCA Vice President and UCSD alumnus Jeong Jin Seok reserved the ballroom in July, under a campus organization policy that allows principal members of any group to remain active during the summer after graduation before a new set of principal members takes over.
On the official UCSD Event Calendar Form, Seok listed the event as a cultural activity open to all UCSD students featuring “cultural movie-watching” and a presentation from GACP Chairman Jung.
In applying to host the event, Seok denied that the event would feature a “controversial topic or speaker,” and reserved the space for 200 participants.
Seok said that he had no idea that Jung was wanted by police for rape charges, or that GACP was a controversial religious group. He said he acted under the orders of former Ko.SCA President and UCSD alumnus Young Han, who has since relocated to South Korea.
“I had no idea about this,” Seok said. “I thought it was a purely cultural event.”
Current Ko.SCA President and Sixth College senior Chang-Ho Han said that he was unaware that the event occurred at all, and said that neither he nor any Ko.SCA members he knew of attended the event.
The presenters made no mention of Ko.SCA during the duration of the performances and speeches, and a man positioned outside the ballroom door refused entry to attendees unless they knew one of the featured models.
However, Student Organizations and Leadership Opportunities Assistant Director Marcia A. Strong said that events are open to all UCSD students unless event planners specifically dictate otherwise.
“This event was approved with the understanding that it was open to the campus,” Strong said.
Vincent Salazar, the man who monitored the door, identified himself as a spokesman for the “church” and said he did not know about the Ko.SCA’s sponsorship of the activity.
He also said the event was meant to foster peace through the modeling, dancing and singing performances.
Salazar said that he was aware of the “bitterness” directed toward the group and its brand as a cult by many sources, but said that the labeling was a result of extensive “misinformation.” Salazar also said that the rape allegations against Jung, who he and other church members referred to as the “president,” were all false.
Naomi Kim, an English interpreter who said she was “very involved” with the group, said that the group receives negative stigma because of “journalism harassment,” and that the group merely provides an opportunity for members to examine their relationship with God in a new light.
“The president gives people a chance to nurture their relationship with God and Jesus from a different perspective,” Kim said, although she refused to elaborate on the particular perspective used.
Other church members, including event planner Pastor Wing Bateman of San Diego’s Jewel Ministries, denied the event’s affiliation to GACP, and vehemently denied rape allegations, saying that they were invented by people unfairly targeting Jung. They said that the event was about improving oneself through cultivating talent.
“Celebrities are always targets,” church member John Lee said, in reference to the rape charges. “With celebrity comes a certain amount of things like this.”
Lee also said that he knew Jung personally, and that Jung was not capable of committing any of the acts for which he was charged.
“Dishonorable people make dishonorable allegations for dishonorable reasons,” Lee said.
Church member Sherwin Carballo went a step further, describing all of the rape charges as “frivolous.”
The members said that in South Korea, a person is guilty until proven innocent, and that because of this unwritten policy, a person like Jung charged with such serious crimes would be forced to leave the country or face unjust imprisonment.
Lee said that since Jung had left South Korea, he had written more than 12,000 proverbs, 800 poems and 60 books, and said that if Jung had remained in South Korea this could not have been accomplished because too many people there demand “face time” from Jung.
“If you know the Korean culture, you know that €˜no’ doesn’t always mean €˜no,'” Lee said, when asked why Jung simply did not deny face-time meetings to concentrate on his teachings and prove his innocence, rather than fleeing the country in the wake of the rape allegations.
The members also said that a legal team was working in South Korea to prove that the allegations are false.
Lee said that modeling and the organization that sponsored the models €” Peace Model USA, which has a sister organization in South Korea established by Jung €” was very different from traditional modeling organizations. He also said that PMUSA was meant to bring the focus of modeling back to the individual spirit and celebrate beauty from the inside.
Although church members continue to support their leader, many former female GACP members throughout Asia continue to come forward with rape allegations, and some members have left the group upon discovering the public scrutiny.
“I couldn’t understand what was happening to me while I was being sexually assaulted,” one former member told the Asahi Shimbun. “I was so messed up in the head, and couldn’t resist whatever the guru did.”
According to Daley, GACP events are also designed to promote sleep deprivation, which aids in the brainwashing process by impairing members’ critical thinking skills. Events include daily church services at 4 a.m. and long weekend services that can last all day, all night or both.
Another former member told the Asahi Shimbun that group members forced him to work long into the night, then wake up to listen to Jung’s videotaped preachings.
Salazar confirmed that Jung sends weekly video messages to members, but said he did not know the location of the messages’ source.
There are three levels of cult involvement, according to Daley. The first level involves membership in front organizations, where many members are unaware of GACP links or even targeted for further indoctrination; they serve the interests of the group by paying to attend events.
“[GACP] members are required to pay a fixed donation, part of which is believed to finance Jung’s flight from the law,” Asahi Shimbun reported in July.
The second stage involves a 30-lesson Bible study course, and upon completion, members come to recognize Jung as the messiah. The majority of members remain at this stage of involvement, according to Daley, with only a few select women reaching the third stage.
These women meet with Jung personally, oftentimes at his request, and are asked to take off their clothing for a health check meant to cleanse the members’ sin, according to Daley. After having sex with the messiah, girls are often threatened with spiritual death if they speak of their experiences.
“[Jung’s] message [is] clear: Disobey me and risk death,” Daley told the Keimyung Gazette.
Press members in Asia who have reported on GACP activities have also been assaulted and had their offices vandalized.
Marie McCulley, a Bay Area resident who never became a full-fledged GACP member, said that she first got involved through personal friendships with other members.
“Needless to say those relationships ended when I put the pieces together and left,” McCulley stated in an e-mail.
McCulley stated that college students make good targets because they are often at a vulnerable period in their lives.
“You’re either young and trying to find your identity, or you’ve gone through [a] major trauma or life change and are asking the big existential questions and along comes someone who’s really nice, charming, good looking and who seems to have all the answers €” which basically means that young college co-eds are easy targets,” she stated.
However, Nicholle Granger, a UCLA junior who performed in the Peace Model event at UCSD, stated in an e-mail that the allegations have not swayed her confidence in Jung or her participation with the church or PMUSA.
“He’s made such an impact on the lives around him, that it’s in human nature for some to be heavily opposed,” Granger stated. “There is no room for doubt because ultimately I’m doing it for God, myself and for the rest of the girls out there who need to believe in not only themselves, but something greater than this world.”
Jung remains on Interpol’s “Red Notice” list, which circulates a global warrant with the request that the wanted person be arrested and extradited to the requesting country.
However, Jung does not appear on Interpol’s Web site because each participating government decides whether or not to include data online, according to a statement by the Interpol press office.
The Korean National Police Agency states on its English Web site that “Korean Police decide whether to disclose any wanted criminal by Interpol on [the] Internet based on established standards,” but in this case has decided not to ask for additional publicity.
“We’ll put more efforts to arrest [Jung],” KNPA stated on its Web site, adding that the Korean police are working closely with Chinese authorities to apprehend Jung.
Jung was originally a member of controversial South Korean religious group Unification Church, which is headed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, before leaving to establish his own group.
Although GACP membership continues to increase, Daley said that the group should be regarded with caution.
“I think it’s one of the most dangerous cults around,” he said.
While accusations of rape continue to surface, many Asian university officials have remained neutral about the group’s activities because they involve freedom of religion, according to Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun.
Salazar said that the church would “most likely” try to hold future events at UCSD.
Additional reporting by Hadley Mendoza, Charles Nguyen, Serena Renner and Simone Wilson, Senior Staff Writers
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