Religious sect leader formally arrested on rape charges

Yonhap News, Korea/February 23, 2008

Seoul - A fugitive South Korean religious sect leader has been formally put under arrest on rape charges, prosecutors said Saturday, days after he was extradited from China.

Jeong Myeong-seok, 62, the leader of Jesus Morning Star or JMS named after his initials, was arrested in China in May last year at the request of the Seoul government. He was extradited to Seoul last week.

Officials from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said Jeong was put behind bars for trial after a Seoul court issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of raping a number of his followers.

The self-proclaimed messiah has been on the run since 1999 after a South Korean television station aired a program alleging that he raped many women who followed him. He was once detained in Hong Kong police Hong Kong in 2003 on visa violations but fled to China where he was arrested.

In 2003, two women, a South Korean and a Japanese, filed a criminal suit with a Seoul court against him, claiming that they were raped by Jeong.

Last month, South Korea's Supreme Court ruled in favor of the two women, ordering Jeong to pay them 10 million won (US$10,500) and 5 million won, respectively, in compensation.

The court said Jeong forced the followers to have sex with him, saying that is a religious behavior meant to save their souls.

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