The deranged leader of a South Korean cult was recently arrested for holding over 400 of her followers captive at a compound on Fiji Island and forcing them to take part in violent rituals under threat of incurring God’s punishment.
Shin Ok-ju, founder of the Grace Road Church, was detained along with three senior leaders of her cult in connection to allegations that she led hundreds of her followers to the island of Fiji by telling them that a “great famine” was imminent on the Korean peninsula. Once there, she reportedly confiscated their passports and refused to let them leave the 83-acre compound. Under the watchful eyes of handpicked guardians, worshippers were also forced to take part in brutal rituals that often left them bloodied.
Photo: YouTube screengrab
One of these bizarre rituals, called “the threshing grounds” by members of the Grace Road Church, involved followers beating each other in order to avoid punishment from God. Those who declined were told that their decision would incur God’s wrath. A member of the cult told Korea Times that one boy was once forced to hit his father over 100 times during the brutal ritual, and that another member was beaten so bad that he suffered brain damage.
Shin Ok-ju started telling worshippers to follow her to Fiji in 2014, by warning them that a great famine was about to hit their homeland. Many were encouraged to abandon their studies and jobs, while others were so captivated by the pastor that they willingly divorced and left their families behind. However, none of them knew what was waiting for them on the island.
Eventually, around five of the worshippers managed to escape the Fiji compound and contacted South Korean authorities about what was happening to the others, Shin was arrested last week when she and other senior leaders of the Grace Road Church landed at Incheon International Airport.
This is not the first time Shin Ok-ju has had troubles with the law. The Guardian reports that in 2014, she was sued for $6 million by a mentally ill man from Brooklyn whom the leader had tried to cure of schizophrenia through prayer. During another bizarre ritual, he was tied with duct tape so tightly that one of his leg had to be amputated. His general condition reportedly worsened to the point where he had to live in a nursing home.