July 3, 2023

SOUTH KOREA: World-First Look Inside Providence, The ‘Cult Next Door’ Targeting Australian Women. Founded In 1978 By Self-Professed ‘Messiah’, Their Presence In More Than 70 Countries.

Wow. ๐Ÿ˜ณ I just finished watching this documentary and boy is this a wild scary story and a warning for young women to be careful out there. Apparently the cult leader was censoring any information about their cult and obviously South Korean government and media obliged with the censorship as well. I mean come on they have to know what's going on right? This cult is sex trafficking women. I just found out about that South Korean cult myself and they've been around since 1978. (emphasis mine) 
7NEWS Spotlight published July 3, 2023: The Cult Next Door: Global investigation into a dangerous ‘religious’ group. 7NEWS Spotlight documentary.

7News Spotlight, Australia local
written by Sarah Greenhalgh
Monday July 3, 2023

Trigger warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault

A guided tour through the sinister caves of a cult compound in rural South Korea where members are sexually assaulted wasn’t quite what I’d envisaged for my first Spotlight assignment.

But in a world-first, that’s where the crew and I ended up as part of our month’s long investigation into the depraved South Korean cult targeting Australian women; a group the Australian Federal Police’s sex-trafficking unit is now also investigating.

“Providence” was founded in 1978 by self-professed ‘messiah’ Jung Myung Seok (JMS). The group claims to be a Christian religious movement with more than 40,000 Korean members and a presence in more than 70 countries, including Australia.

The ‘churches’ we’ve visited in Australia are just like those in Seoul, South Korea. There’s no signage, no lists of services, certainly no standard, ‘open door’ church policy. Instead, the faithful meet behind frosted glass, using secret pin codes for access.

Providence, in South Korea, is a cult.

Australian woman Amy* was recruited to join Providence while she was on her way to meet a friend for a game of bowling at Melbourne Central.

“All of a sudden, somebody tapped me on my shoulder, I turned around and two girls were smiling at me ... they asked me to do a survey about my faith” explains Amy.

Liz had just finished Year 12 when she was approached at the Canberra Centre.

“I was on a gap year, so I was looking to travel, I was working part-time, and I was also thinking about what I was going do with my life. I was in a really good position to be susceptible to psychological coercion, and they definitely took advantage of that”.

Enticed by faith and friendship, both women eventually moved into cult houses, where every aspect of their life was controlled. They were told to wake up at 2am each day to pray to JMS. As they began deteriorating physically and mentally, their new “friends” introduced Liz and Amy to the controversial aspects of the Providence doctrine, including the concept of “faith stars”.

Essentially, the prettiest, tallest, most obedient female members are brainwashed into believing that they are brides of God — and by extension — brides of JMS. Liz and Amy were quickly identified as “faith stars” with photos and profiles sent to Providence Headquarters in South Korea.

As they were being groomed, 8300 kilometres away in Daejeon, South Korea, JMS was serving a 10-year prison sentence for sexual violence against four Providence members after being convicted of rape in 2008.

During this period, Liz and Amy travelled from Australia to meet JMS in jail.

“(We were told) him being in prison for 10 years wasn’t because he raped women, it’s because he is saving all of mankind’s souls” explains Amy. “It made sense to me. Unfortunately, it really did.”

Liz said they sat across from him, with only plexiglass separating them.

”He came in, in just a prison jumpsuit, smiled at us, blew kisses,” she said.

“I feel sick thinking about it.”

Not long after the encounter, Liz successfully escaped Providence.

Amy did not. She instead returned to South Korea and stayed at the Providence compound in Wolmyeongdong, where JMS had returned following his release from prison.

Amy alleges JMS sexually assaulted her five times.

“I was asked to go into a room with him and there was a translator present. It was initiated that I should take my clothes off and he would dress me” she says.

“After he dressed me, he went and sat down on a chair and asked me to stand in front of him and began speaking to me. And at that moment he just lifted up my skirt and put his hands into my underwear. And for that whole five minutes he was just talking to me… touching me.”

Amy reported the assault to a senior, female Providence leader who sits below JMS in the chain of command.

“She educated me around it, saying ‘He’s your husband in the world too, can’t the husband do that kinda thing to their wife? It’s the same here, you’re the bride, you should be thankful, it’s your blessing’.”

One of the alleged sexual assaults happened in a so-called “prayer cave” at Wolmyeongdong, the Providence compound that 7NEWS Spotlight was recently invited to visit.

Unsurprisingly, the cult’s inner sanctum is eerie, bizarre, and entirely dedicated to its leader. Members proudly showed us the “holy waterfall” that their “teacher” JMS designed from prison.

His handwritten proverbs are tied to trees across the property, while a painted silhouette of his face adorns a giant boulder. Then there’s the medicinal spring they claim prevents cancer.

The obvious question — why would a cult allow a TV crew in?

They feel they have little left to lose.

Last year, Amy joined forces with another alleged victim from Hong Kong who recorded harrowing audio of her alleged rape. It was enough to put JMS back behind bars and on trial.

He’s facing 22 counts of indecent and sexual assault, with more victims now coming forward. Several of the alleged, female groomers are also facing charges.

The case has received an enormous amount of publicity in South Korea, forcing the cult underground

Until now.

Members tell us they’re unfairly targeted by the Korean media because of their ‘unconventional’ beliefs.

Mr Young, the lawyer representing JMS, denies all allegations of brainwashing and sexual assault, convinced his client’s previous conviction for rape was a grave miscarriage of justice.

He told me the women claiming to have been abused — including Amy — “don’t have the mental or physical signs” of being victims.

Throughout our hour-long interview, he danced around questions regarding other women being paid off in exchange for their silence.

Amy says she was threatened when she went public with her allegations.

Maria Naselli, President of the ‘The Lord’s Hope Church’ in Sydney - a faction of Providence - sent a video message to Amy demanding that she stop.

“We want you to stop attacking us and to stop taking actions against us. If you do not heed this strong warning, we will hold a press conference against you” she says in the selfie-style video.

“... We will reveal every unfortunate, unethical, and amoral thing that you have done... this will detrimentally affect your life and definitely your future career.”

The video has been reported to police and to Sue Woodard, Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC).

With a verdict on the latest charges against JMS months away, much of the pain continues.

But for Liz and Amy, bravely sharing their stories and joining others fighting Providence on the frontline has helped untangle the warped reality that JMS controlled for so long.

Full statement from Maria Naselli

“As a senior member of the Providence Church in Australia I am committed to ensuring that all past, present and future members of the Church participate in all church activities in a safe and healthy way.

“This includes a zero-tolerance policy to sexual exploitation in any form. I did not publish Amy’s personal information online at any time but my previous communications and representations about Amy which were sent at the behest of a former Providence member in South Korea were deeply regrettable.

“Upon reflection, communications of that nature were inappropriate and not in keeping with my own values or the teachings of the Church.

“Without in any way pre-judging the legal process in Korea, I offer my support to Amy and encourage any person that has been exposed to inappropriate conduct by members of Providence Church in Australia to contact the Police or the Providence Church directly on australiacgm.headquarters@gmail.com.”

* name has been changed to protect alleged victim

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