Lee Man-hee, a leader of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, speaks to the media during the press conference in Gapyeong, South Korea. AP
Lee Man-hee, leader of South Korea’s condemned religious sect, prostrated in remorse for kindling majority of the nation’s virus cases during a press conference on Monday afternoon.
Lee, also known as the ‘Promised Pastor’ among church members, apologised to the government and its public after Seoul City had pressed murder charges the evening before, calling for the prosecution of the sect’s 12 branch heads and its founding member Lee.
"I would like to offer my sincere apology to the people," said Lee in tears. "Although it was not intentional, many people have been infected," the 88-year-old said.
Members of Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony have been facing an onslaught of criticism from the public for practicing destructive negligence ever since an infected member delayed her diagnosis in early February.
The 61-year-old churchgoer has now propagated the novel virus to several unchecked mass attendees of the church, whose connections amount to 266,000 people.
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon urged a “swift” investigation into Shincheonji once the city government forwarded multiple complaints to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office with offences listing murder, injury and violation of disease prevention laws.
“Not only did the defendants refuse health inspection, the followers of the sect refused to comply with quarantine measures,” read the Seoul City press release on Sunday.
Lee claims otherwise in his apology stating that his side had been readily cooperating with the authorities.
Aside from thanking the government’s inexhaustible efforts to contain the epidemic, the Shincheoji founder pleaded for forgiveness with a double bow, dropping to his knees to prostrate in front of the large swarm of reporters.
Discrepancies in the statements between the church members and health inspectors regarding whereabouts, administrative evidence and alleged dishonesty have reportedly slowed down the pace of the investigation.
Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced 476 additional confirmed cases, bringing the toll to 4,212—the highest out of China—as of Monday.
Daegu, home to Shincheonji, continues to be a trouble spot claiming 73 percent of the country's total confirmed cases.
The 90-plus patients surfaced after all 207 of the call-center employees, who work from the 11th floor of a building located in the district of Guro, and their families were tested, Park briefed the public.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced additional 161 cases and 2 deaths on Monday, bringing the toll to 763 that puts the country third in the list of COVID-19 infected hotspots.
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