Covid politics: Seoul cracks down on church following mass demonstrations

by WorldTribune Staff, August 23, 2020

A church in Seoul which has been a gathering place for conservatives and whose pastor openly criticizes leftist President Moon Jae-In was raided by police on Friday after Moon’s government accused the church of being the epicenter of a recent covid outbreak, reports say.

Police officers wearing protective gear head toward Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul for a search and seizure operation on Aug. 21. / Yonhap

A court issued a warrant for search and seizure for Sarang Jeil Church, Yonhap reported.

East Asia Research Center’s Tara O tweeted: “SWAT team & police sent to Sarang Jeil Church in Korea. The Moon regime is targeting this church. Many members are forced to quarantine after the health authorities sprayed “disinfectant” & got sick after.”

The raid came as the Moon government claimed a recent spike in COVID-19 infection cases in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province was tied to the church.

But it also came amid ongoing massive protests against Moon’s leftist government and what demonstrators say is its jailing of journalists and suppressing of alternative and conservative views expressed publicly.

Sarang Jeil Church Pastor Jun Kwang-Hoon took part in a large anti-government rally at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square on Aug. 15.

South Korean media have downplayed the demonstrations and portrayed them as the irresponsible actions of “elderly conservatives.” The only alternative media in South Korea are YouTube channels which are frequently blocked by the authorities.

Related: Angry conservative demonstrators in Seoul manhandle police, demand president’s resignation, August 15, 2020

Amid the raid, police reportedly faced strong protest from church officials who demanded a search and seizure warrant. The search began at 8 p.m. and finished around 3:30 a.m., reports say.

Around 30 congregants gathered in front of the church while the search operation was going on, the Yonhap report said.

Kang Yeon-Jae, a lawyer who represents pastor Jun, said the church will take legal steps, suing Seoul city’s acting Mayor Seo Jeong-Hyup for employing violence.

Jun and several of his aides tested positive for covid after the rally, the Yonhap report said.

Pastor Jun released a statement on a YouTube channel blaming “virus terrors by outside forces” for the massive outbreak in his church.

“I’m sorry that I have caused health concerns,” Jun wrote. “My church has fully complied with the anti-virus guidelines … I am curious about the origin of the virus.”

Tara O tweeted: “This is insane. To what length would the Moon Jae-in govt go to persecute church & to shift the blame for
Coronavirus spread away from him. He’s the 1 who refused ban on entry from China (despite doctors calls for it) & wanted to “share the suffering” with China.”

Meanwhile, Yang Jiechi, a senior Chinese government official, visited the South Korean city of Busan this weekend for talks with Suh Hoon, the South’s director of presidential national security. The officials will discuss Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping’s possible trip to South Korea.

Yang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, is known for his influence on diplomatic affairs.

Xi earlier promised to visit South Korea this year, but there has been no announcement of the schedule.

Seoul and Beijing have been consulting on the matter so that Xi can visit “at an appropriate time” as soon as the COVID-19 situation is “stabilized,” South Korean officials said.

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