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Opinion

South Korea must tame Christian cults or worsen coronavirus spread

New religious movements are potent force within country

| South Korea
Army soldiers spray disinfectant in front of a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu on Mar. 1.   © Newsis/AP

When the number of coronavirus cases in South Korea started exploding, scientists quickly identified a common origin: they were members of Shincheonji, a Christian new religious movement or cult, in Daegu, Korea's fourth largest city.

The unique style of its services explains the high risk of contagion, according to the testimony of a former member: members are instructed to kneel on the floor in tight rows at church halls and they are not allowed to wear masks during services. As of March 2, around 60% of South Korea's 4,200 COVID-19 cases were linked to Shincheonji.

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