Cults

I realize it’s been a criminally long time since I’ve updated, but here you go. Midterms are nigh, and the girls here are looking a little scrubbier than usual. For me it just means popping in my contacts less when I want a few more minutes of sleep.

But cults. I was warned of them before coming here, and we were all warned at Orientation. Recently I’ve been hearing of them more since one cult called the Mannam tried to get the international students to attend one of their festivals. We were bribed with free Korean and judo lessons. From what I’ve heard, foreigners won’t be forced to join, but they’re used as a cover-up of some sorts. I hear it makes them look more legit to Koreans if the group has international support. Some expats have been pretty dismissive of the whole thing and go anyway for the free stuff. I know some argue “What’s the harm?” since it seems as though the group does community service. It’s pretty selfish to me.

I think Mannam was the cult that beat a girl to death when she wanted out. So yes, there does appear to be harm.

One unnie I was eating lunch with told me that some of the Christian groups on Ewha are cults. She said in her freshman year she joined what she thought was a Christian club and they had some odd beliefs. Like once she had an exam to study for the next day, so she planned on missing an event. Her leader was all preachy and told her that she had to “surrender to the world and follow Jesus” or something like that. So she went. And failed her test. The group also didn’t like members having relationships with people outside the group. Her leader told her she was praying that the unnie would break up with her boyfriend. That was the last straw for her, so she left.

I was having lunch with a couple kids from my Korean class and we shared our experiences thus far. Apparently everyone in the International dorm got an email from the Mannam. So somehow they got all of their email addresses. I’m in the Graduate dorm, so I didn’t hear of it until the International office warned us what it was.

Some groups will only approach you at night. Once right in front of my dorm a couple girls wanted to show me a video and get my thoughts on it. I told them my Korean wasn’t any good, and their English wasn’t great either. I thought they were trying to get me to join a Bible study group, so I said I was already in two. This just excited them more, so I watched anyway.

The video’s argument was that there is a Mother God along with a Father God. The original Hebrew says that in Genesis God says “Let US make man…” and the word US implies other Gods. And they believe the Bride mentioned in Revelation is the supposed Mother God instead of the church. Then they wanted me to talk about my opinions and write my name down in a survey box.

So here is where I started my argument. Wasn’t the Bride the church? “No”, they said. No explanation. Just no. Wasn’t God talking about the trinity? “No”, they said. No explanation. Just no. What did it matter so long as we believed in God? I don’t think they understood that. But I think they answered “no”. That was sort of how our conversation went. And I just kept getting madder cause I couldn’t understand them, and they still kept trying to convert me even though they didn’t know what I was saying either. They just kept trying to get me to believe in God the Mother. A couple more girls joined.

At one point I got fed up, and excused myself. They still wanted me to write my opinions, so I wrote a few words. I didn’t write my name though like the previous people did. I did not want them to come find me. My surname is uncommon enough that it would be pretty easy.

I asked my small group leader about the “US” word, and she told me that just like how the Korean language sometimes uses “oori” (we) for me, Hebrew is similar. For those of you unfamiliar with Korean, an example of this would include how we refer to our parents. It literally translates to “our parents”. My leader said that when she first got to Korea, she went to what she thought was a church, but it turned out it wasn’t. It also had some odd conversion ceremony that was sort of like communion.

Back at home I looked up the cult, and it just sounds so creepy for some unexplainable reason. I didn’t expect Korea, the number two country for sending Christian missionaries, to have as many cult issues as they do. I thought Japan might have more of that. Though I believe most of the cults here are Christian based with elements from the faith. Like the Moonies believed their leader was Jesus coming back. Though that doesn’t make sense, since it’s written that once Jesus does come back, the world will end…

I think in the end the experience made me realize I’ve been neglecting my Bible so much. I barely read it these days. So if any of my readers end up coming to Korea, please stay safe and don’t give your name out to strange groups who approach you at night.

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4 Responses to Cults

  1. JD says:

    Mannam isn’t exactly a cult. They’re a “secular” front group for Shinchonji, which definitely is a cult that is infamous for having various front groups to lure in unsuspecting new recruits. Since Mannam mainly targets foreigners I highly doubt they would beat someone to death for leaving, but you might be getting them confused with Shinchonji.

    The cult that showed you the video is often referred to as “The Church of the Heavenly Mother.” I don’t know their real name, but yeah, their beliefs are pretty bizarre.

    Korea is big on cults for a lot of reasons. Personally I think it’s because they had their heritage and beliefs robbed from them by Japan during the imperial era, and now everyone just needs something to believe in and a sense of belonging. Understandable, but these megalomaniacs like Moon Sun-myung and Lee Man-hee (Shinchonji/Mannam) and the Holy Ajumma who insist on being worshipped are scary. Keep your eyes open and beware that any group trying to recruit you could be connected with a cult.

    • matoki says:

      Thank you so much for all that. Yeah, I think I did confuse Shinchonji with Mannam about the beating thing. Is there any website you might recommend for others to read up on the subject more?

  2. JD says:

    There’s a ton of information and links, as well as screencaps of now-erased Mannam websites at the link I’ve put as my website. jmscult.com/forum/index.php?board=100.0

    We also have a Facebook group for people to come and share their Mannam experiences.
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/321920281238891/

    Out of curiosity, where did you hear about Shinchonji beating a girl to death?

    • matoki says:

      Back when I was in America, a girl mentioned that someone got killed because of a cult though she didn’t specify which one. I heard the rumor when I was eating with my classmates.

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