Korea Arrests Leader of Sect at Center of Early Virus Outbreak


South Korean authorities arrested the leader of a religious sect at the center of an early coronavirus outbreak in the country, alleging the church hindered government efforts to trace worshipers who may have been infected, Yonhap News reported.

The Suwon District Court issued an arrest warrant for Lee Man-hee, the 88-year-old leader of the Shincheonji sect, according to the news agency. Prosecutors requested the warrant after questioning Lee and suspected he submitted false documents on the sect’s gatherings to health authorities to avoid extensive quarantines. Lee is also facing an embezzlement charge, Yonhap reported.

South Korea’s coronavirus infections soared from late February after a woman, dubbed Patient 31, was found to have attended the sect’s worship services with at least 1,000 other members. Daegu, a city about 150 miles south of Seoul where the church is based, became a hotspot of the virus outbreak and the country reported more than 5,000 infections related to the sect. That’s about one third of all cases in South Korea, which has a total tally of 14,336 as of Saturday.

After the flareup of infections stemming from the Shincheonji sect, South Korea developed a strategy to contain wider virus outbreaks through extensive testing and the widespread tracking of people who may have come in contact with those who were contagious.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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