Many are curious as to why major Christian media outlets such as Kukmin Ilbo and CBS No-Cut News are overly relying on two “cult researchers” and their assertions against the new religious denomination, Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (Chairman Man Hee Lee, “Shincheonji”).
Both Kukmin Ilbo and CBS have been heavily basing their critical reports against Shincheonji on claims made by, Hyun Wook Shin, the Head Counselor of Korean Christian Cult Counseling Center in Guri, and Yong Shik Jin, the chairperson of Korean Christian Cult Counseling Committee. Especially in Kukmin Ilbo, interviews with Mr. Shin and Mr. Jin appeared in every critical report against Shincheonji that was published in the past several months, attracting the public’s attention.
One justification may be that both men are knowledgeable of Shincheonji, but many are becoming wary of the one-sided assertions of few individuals who oppose that very denomination that they are reporting on through major Christian media outlets.
The 13th Christian Media Forum held last March noted that “the debates on the heretical Korean churches focus on irrelevant topics that do not touch upon the essence of Christianity, further causing divisions and confusions within the church. The so-called cult researchers’ arbitrary methods of determining a heresy are responsible for the majority of this confusion.” In regards to Yong Shik Jin and Hyun Wook Shin, a former member of Shincheonji, the forum claimed that “many of the self-proclaimed cult researchers are attacking their former denominations, acting as experts in the matters of determining heresies.”
In addition to such charges, it was also revealed that Mr. Shin and Mr. Jin failed to respond to the summons of the Committee on Countermeasures of Cults of the Christian Council of Korea (CCK), which had previously determined Mr. Shin and Mr. Jin were heretics. The committee also concluded Mr. Shin and Mr. Jin had started many conflicts and disagreements in the Christian community.
Moreover, Kukmin Ilbo and CBS have been protective of Mr. Shin and Mr. Jin since the CCK has been making charges against them. In the past, the two media companies have been supportive of the CCK’s dealings on heretical matters, until the CCK began to make charges against Mr. Shin and Mr. Jin. The two media companies are now criticizing the CCK instead.
Defining a group as either a heretic or not has been dependent on media portrayal and a denomination’s claims, more so than on a fixed standard, such as the Bible.
Many are also skeptical of Mr. Shin and Mr. Jin’s past, raising doubts on the accuracy of the reports from the major Christian media outlets. While serving as a high-level official in Shincheonji, Hyun Wook Shin once claimed that one must “eat the flesh and blood of Chairman Man Hee Lee instead of the flesh and blood of Jesus” to be saved, a statement that led him to be expelled from the denomination. Depositing the church offering into his personal bank account and spending for own gain was another factor that led to his expulsion.
The Supreme Court found Yong Shik Jin guilty for abetting coercive kidnappings while conducting coercive conversion education in 2008. The Supreme Court also acknowledged that Mr. Jin received monetary funds for the coercive conversion sessions from the victims’ families. An investigation of his bank account revealed that Mr. Jin amassed over a billion Korean Won through various conversion education business, heightening public awareness of the conversion education’s motives for business and profit.
In the midst of such reality, the public skepticism are growing against the major Christian media outlets, such as Kukmin Ilbo and CBS, for solely relying on Mr. Jin and Mr. Shin’s claims as their only source. Their consistent and repeated use of the same source are raising many questions of the neutrality and fairness of their reports, and whether they are protecting the benefit of other established churches that are attempting to thwart the rapid growth of Shincheonji.