A video clip appears to show a South Korean pastor physically abusing church members and coercing them to beat each other, footage that emerged amid an investigation into claims that the woman was the leader of a religious cult in Fiji, the Guardian reports.
Footage reviewed by the Guardian and South Korean police reportedly shows Shin Ok-ju, pastor of the messianic South Korean Grace Road Church, subjecting her followers to abuse such as hair pulling and cutting during her sermons in South Korea.
The footage was originally aired as part of a documentary program by a South Korean broadcaster, the Guardian reports.
Some followers were reportedly forced to endure “ritual beatings” at designated areas called “threshing floors” at the religious group’s compound in Fiji. Approximately 400 members of the church relocated to Fiji in 2014 after Shin predicted a famine on the Korean peninsula.
While in Fiji, members of the Grace Road group reportedly suffered regular physical abuse and had their passports confiscated to prevent them from leaving.
Witnesses said a man in his 70s was beaten hundreds of times while in Fiji. When he returned to South Korea, he visited a doctor who said he has suffered a severe brain injury that killed him about a year later.
A spokesperson for the Grace Road church defended the beatings in a statement as efforts to “publicly reprove” church members “so that they would turn back and no longer sin.”
Shin and three other church leaders were arrested last month at Seoul’s Incheon airport after they returned to South Korea, the Guardian reports.
Shin has also attracted legal trouble in the U.S. She was sued for $6 million in 2014 by a 27-year-old who alleged that she bound him with duct tape as part of a ritual intended to cure him of mental illness.
The man’s condition worsened and ultimately necessitated a leg amputation, the New York Daily News reported.
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