(Island Times) A Korean religious sect, Grace Road Church, with repeated reports of abuses, beatings, and forced labor of its members, moved to Fiji in 2013 and built a business empire with the support of Fiji government, according to a report from Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Korean Center for Investigative Journalism.
Led by Reverend Shin with about 400 members, the sect moved to Fiji believing that the world was heading for a nuclear war and Fiji was a “safe haven” where they could revive Christianity.
With its members’ money and free labor and loans from the state-backed Fiji Development Bank of around US$3.8 million, the doomsday sect-built businesses and now operates Fiji’s largest chain of restaurants, owns eight supermarkets and minimarts, runs five gas stations and controls about 400 hectares of farmland.
The leader, Shin Ok-ju, was arrested upon arriving in Seoul, Korea, on charges of assault, child abuse, and illegal imprisonment of her church members.
Seventeen Korean police flew to Fiji to arrest the rest of the church leaders and worked with Fiji police to arrest six members of the sect, including Shin’s son Daniel Kim who is the second-in-command.
The Fijian court blocked the church members’ deportation, Fiji police took over the investigation, and the arrested church members were released.
Despite interviews with former sect members and information collected from the site investigation, the Fiji police claim they didn’t have enough evidence to charge the church members.
Former members of the sect and witnesses had reported regular beatings, forced labor, and abuses by the church leaders, but their complaints have not resulted in any arrest. According to the OCCRP report, the Grace Road Church defended the beatings of its members as “spiritual warfare for the salvation of souls.”
The report claims that the Grace Road church enjoys special treatment from the government of Fiji Prime Minister Bainimarama. Other businesses complained that they get special treatment but declined to be identified due to fear of reprisals.
The church leader Reverend Shin was convicted in Korea and sentenced to six years in prison for holding members of her church in Fiji captive and subjecting them to violence.
Meanwhile, the church businesses continue to thrive under the leadership of her son and second-in-command, Daniel Kim. The other church leaders in Fiji remain at large with no charges filed against them. https://www.occrp.org/en/investigations/korean-doomsday-sect-gets-rich-in-fiji-with-government-help