Cult sex: Leader's term upheld

Strait Times, Singapore/April 23, 2009

Seoul - SOUTH Korea's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 10-year jail sentence imposed on a cult leader for sex crimes against female followers.

An appeal court in February had sentenced Jeong Myeong-Seok to 10 years, adding four years to a lower court's sentence.

Jeong - whose JMS sect stands for both Jesus Morning Star and his initials - was convicted of raping or otherwise sexually assaulting four South Korean female followers between 2003 and 2006 in Malaysia, Hong Kong and China.

Jeong, now 64, fled South Korea after prosecutors started investigating allegations against him. He was formally charged in absentia with rape in 2001.

The cult leader was arrested in Hong Kong in 2003 for visa violations but later fled an extradition hearing. China extradited him to Seoul in February last year.

Even though the offences for which Jeong was convicted were committed overseas, South Korean courts said they had jurisdiction because his victims were Koreans.

Former cult members, mostly young girls, have told police they were instructed to undress for health checks and to have sex with Jeong to expunge their sins.

The girls said they were threatened with spiritual death if they spoke of what happened.

News reports have said Jeong, who founded his cult in the late 1980s, was still believed to have thousands of followers.

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