SEOUL, South Korea (PRWEB) March 05, 2018
Momentum from the Olympic “Peace Games” has opened the door to peace talks between North and South Korea, but the South Korean government remains silent to its own citizens’ appeal for religious freedom protection.
“More than 1,000 victims have undergone Coercive Conversion Programs, a practice that violates fundamental human rights,” says Human Rights Association for Victims of Coercive Conversion Programs (HAC). According to HAC’s public statement, “the Coercive Conversion Programs are a practice led by leaders of the Christian Council of Korea (CCK) and the Korea Alliance of Christian Churches (KACC) that attempt to forcefully change an individual’s belief through psychological intimidation, verbal and physical abuse.”
On Saturday, March 4th, HAC hosted a rally in front of the Christian Broadcasting System (CBS) and Christian Council of Korea (CCK) offices in South Korea to condemn the silence of both the government and Christian community in the country. The rally was echoed by the international community in regions such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and countries including Guatemala, El Salvador, Argentina, Mexico, Philippines, Zimbabwe, Australia, France, Germany and Indonesia, hosting respective protests.
“The problem is that conversion program leaders call the program ‘counseling,’ masking their true intent for the opportunity of financial profit,” said Ms. Ji Hye Choi, HAC Co-President. “Program leaders will label other religions as heretical and use fear to compel family members to ‘protect’ their families.”
As a result, family members will force their children, husbands, and wives to enroll in the program using all means necessary. Conversion program cases have involved drugging victims with sleeping pills, taping up the victims’ mouths, and binding handcuffs on the victims’ hands and feet to transport them to the program location. Once in a remote area, victims are confined to a small room while a program leader will attack the victims’ beliefs.
“The consequences are destructive: mental trauma, fear, strained family relationships, divorce, job loss, school dropout and even death,” said Choi.
According to NBC and News24 reports, Ji-In Gu, a 25-year-old South Korean woman, died by suffocation while undergoing the conversion program in January this year. Her parents, who collaborated with program leaders, are under investigation for her death.
According to HAC representatives, this was not Gu’s first time in the program. In 2016, she was enrolled and subsequently kidnapped by her family to be “counseled” for 44 days. Before her death this year, Gu pleaded to the presidential office of South Korea on its petition website, calling for legal protection from religious discrimination. No official response from the government has been issued.
The HAC has urged the government to take preventive action by investigating into the conversion program. However, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism stated that it cannot conduct an investigation due to the separation of church and state. Furthermore, the online petition for the ban of Coercive Conversion programs received 140,000 supporters, but it disappeared from the government website without an explanation.
“The perpetrators and the organizations supporting Coercive Conversion programs must be knocked down,” said US human rights activist Steven Acosta. “These protests are blowing the winds of justice.”