December 22, 2023: Jeong Myeong-seok — a South Korean religious sect leader whose sex crimes were featured in the popular Netflix series In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal — was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
Jeong, who refers to himself as Messiah, was found guilty of sexual violence against three of his female followers. He is the founder of the Christian Gospel Mission, also known as Providence or Jesus Morning Star (JMS).
- Future grim for cult leader convicted of sex crimes: experts – Jeong Myeong-seok unlikely to be successful in reversing court ruling, experts assess, Park Jun-Hee, The Korea Herald, December 28, 2023. [Also at Archive.Today and the WayBackMachine]
Jeong Myeong-seok, the leader of a controversial religious group, Jesus Morning Star, lodged an appeal on a court ruling last week sentencing him to 23 years behind bars for sexual assault and molestation.
However, the future looks grim for Jeong, as legal experts on Thursday said it is highly unlikely that the 78-year-old will succeed in reversing the Daejeon District Court’s ruling in the appellate court due to the trustworthiness of the victims’ testimony and evidence.
“The court got the facts right through the victims’ testimonies and evidence, all of which are reliable and trustworthy, so the appellate court would likely uphold the initial ruling,” Jeong Woong-seok, a law professor at Seo Kyeong University and chairman of the Korean Society of Criminal Procedure Law, told The Korea Herald.
“Unless it finds a new piece of evidence that could overturn the result, a victory for Jeong will not happen,” the professor noted.
The leader was convicted of routinely raping and sexually assaulting a number of his female followers, including one from Hong Kong, one from Australia and one from South Korea, between February 2018 and September 2021. […more…]
Jung Myung-seok [sometimes written as ‘Jong Myong Suk’ of ‘John Myung Seok’] is the leader of a religious movement considered to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity. Sociologically the movement is a cult as well. 1
Officially his name is Jung, Myung-Seok (i.e. given name Myung-Seok, family name Jung). He is also known as Joshua Jung, Joshua Lee Jung, Joshua Lee, Pastor Joshua and JMS. News reports point out that the initials JMS…
…coincidentally — or perhaps not — are the same as “Jesus Morning Star,” a reference to Revelations 2:24-29, in which Jesus promises believers, “He shall rule them with a rod of iron . . . and I will give him the morning star.”
– Source: “Love’ cult snares students, The Japan Times, Japan, Oct. 27, 2002
Within the movement, followers of Jung are called Morning Stars (MS or MSes).
While many Koreans have English names, Myung Seok does not translate to Joshua. We are told that “[h]is choice of Joshua was probably because he relates himself to Joshua of the OT leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. He claims this history is repeating on a large scale.” The same research also states that “[h]is name usually isn’t given initially to potential members because they don’t want to give them the opportunity to research for themselves.”
Jung’s movement, Providence, was founded in South Korea. In Japan, the group is known as ‘Setsuri,’ the Japanese word for ‘providence.’
The movement uses (or has used) various names, including International Christian Association (ICA), Christian Gospel Mission (CGM), and Jesus Morningstar Church (JMS), Morning Star Church, or American Providence.
However, each church that follows Jung’s teaching keeps its own name (e.g. Nak-seong-dae Church, Seoul Church, etcetera).
JMS uses the following front groups to attract potential recruits:
- Bright Smile Movement (BSM)
- China Christian Youth Association (CCYA)
- Global Association of Culture and Peace (GACP)
- International Cultural Exchange (ICE)
- International Culture Interchange Association (ICIA)
- IOCA Modeling
- Korean International Cultural Society (KICS)
- Peace Model Korea (PMK)
- Peace Model USA (PMUSA)
- Providence Vision Project (PVP)
- Sky Soccer
- United Culture and Arts Network (UCAN)
- VIA 3
- World Peace Model
- Youth Developer Group (YDG)
Seok the Messiah
In his youth, Jung Myung-seok was a member of the Unification Church, the cult of Christianity founded and operated by Sun Myung Moon. When he started his own religious movement Jung, like Moon, also claimed to be the Messiah.
Jong, age 57, is said to have joined the Unification Church in his teens, but left to establish his own religion around 1980. It now claims 150,000 adherents in Korea and from the late 1980s also began making inroads in Japan, where it has attracted more than 1,000 members. Recruitment activities typically take place on college campuses, through infiltration of sports clubs and other extracurricular circles.
“The church’s doctrine is composed of the so-called “30 precepts,’ although it’s pretty clear that they’re derived from the Unification Church,” explains Toyoshige Aizawa, a Christian minister engaged in weaning young people away from cults.
“Jong has twisted the biblical story of Adam and Eve to deal with sex, saying, “To atone for Adam and Eve’s original sin, which was visited upon all mankind, it’s necessary to engage in intercourse with the Lord.’ In this case, he means himself, since he claims to be a reincarnation of Jesus.”
– Source: “Love’ cult snares students, The Japan Times, Japan, Oct. 27, 2002
The JMS 30 lesson Bible course is almost identical to billionaire Sun Myoung Moon’s “Divine Principles,” the Bible course of his Unification Church, the difference being which leader each course identifies as the Messiah. In his teens, Jeong was reportedly a follower of Moon; undoubtedly, that is where he learnt claiming to be God can be profitable.
The English 30 lessons never give Jeong’s full name. He is referred to as “Our founder” or “R,” short for rabbi, ironic since Jeong has praised Hitler. On English websites he is called either Joshua Jung or Joshua Lee. Students taking this course are never allowed to take the materials home with them. This control of information makes it harder for students to reflect critically on the material.
JMS events are also designed to promote sleep deprivation, which aids in the indoctrination process by impairing critical thinking skills. There are 4am daily dawn services and overly long weekend services and events: sometimes all night, sometimes all day, sometimes both.
– Source: Peter Daley, Jung Myung Seok: How to Spot a Woolly Wolf, Keimyung Gazette, Keimyung University, South Korea, Feb. 1, 2006
The “Providence” movement of Joshua Jung rests heavily upon two principal beliefs: that 2000 years ago, the work and message of Jesus Christ were not complete, and that we now live in a new time period that requires a new understanding of scripture and a new “Lord”.
This second point is significant in that it gives license to Jung to reinterpret any aspect of traditional teaching by labeling it as newly inspired revelation. Many terms such as “resurrection” and “born again” take on new meaning based upon his interpretations and his new understanding of the bible’s figurative language.
However, it is the first point that flies in the face of sound biblical doctrine. Jung teaches that the salvation message of Jesus was incomplete, having been interrupted through man’s interference and subsequent crucifixion of Christ. Because of this, he teaches that we cannot truly experience the “better” resurrection unless we follow the new revelation of his teachings.
[T]he teachings of Joshua Jung go far beyond doctrinal differences. His proclamation that he is the “Lord of the Second Coming” is blasphemous. His insistence that the bible is to be interpreted through his teaching because he alone is the “one who receives Jesus’ spirit, power, mission and heart” is blasphemous. His belief that believers are to “get out of a literal understanding of the Bible” is dangerous and makes one vulnerable to any man’s interpretation.
– Source: Providence Teachings, Providence Cult Watch
Convicted of rape
Controversy has followed Jung Myung-seok since at least 1999 when he fled Korea with a lawsuit pending against him. He was formally charged in 2001, and became an international fugitive in 2002:
Jung, who established the cult nearly three decades ago, has been wanted by both Interpol and the South Korean government since 1999 after rape allegations became public, according to several Asian newspaper reports.
Jung was formally charged with rape in 2001, and was captured in Hong Kong in 2003, but posted his own bail and avoided South Korean extradition charges. His whereabouts have been unknown since then, although he is rumored to be hiding in China, according to Peter Daley, an English professor at South Korea’s Keimyung University and a dedicated critic of Jung who established an extensive Web site aimed at exposing GACP’s activities after his roommate became involved with the cult.
Since the allegations became public, numerous other women have come forward with similar accusations. According to July reports from Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, more than 100 women have said they were sexually abused or raped by Jung under the pretense of religious purification.
“There is a history of abuse with this group,” Daley said. “So many girls get raped by its leader.”
GACP is most active in Asian countries but has branches worldwide, Daley said. It concentrates its membership recruitment activities at elite universities, including the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Osaka University, National Taiwan University and, recently, UCSD.
“Most of the former members I have spoken to encountered JMS on a university campus,” Daley stated in a February 2006 article in the Keimyung Gazette. “Younger girls are also targeted for recruitment.”
The cult seeks members, according to Asahi Shimbun, by organizing sporting events, modeling shows, dance shows and other activities before inviting participants to Bible study sessions, where they are subsequently influenced to accept cult teachings that declare Jung as the true messiah and regulate members’ sleeping and eating patterns. Former members have said that the group engages in brainwashing and extensive secrecy, and uses fun activities to build trust with recruits before introducing them to Jung’s teachings.
– Source: Alleged Cult Sows Seeds Via Campus Event, The Guardian, University of California, San Diego, USA, Nov. 13, 2006
Jung Myung-seok was arrested in Hong Kong in 2003 for visa violations but later fled an extradition hearing. China extradited him to Seoul in February 2008.
In August 2008 he was sentenced to 6 years in prison.
Upon appeal, the cult leader was jailed for 10 years in February 2009.
Research Resources on Jung Myung-seok and Providence
- Exodus [Korean] This Korean-language site, AntiJMS.net, is operated by former followers of Jung Myung Seok.
- The JMS Cult Homepage This extensive site consists primarily of links to current and archived forums regarding Jung Myung Seok and his movement. The site is operated by Peter Daley, an English lecturer at South Korea’s Keimyung University and a dedicated critic of Jung.
- Providence Cult Watch Subtitled, “A Biblical Examination Of The Teachings Of Joshua Jung & Providence”. Good overview of Jung’s teachings.
- Setsuri Cult expert Steve Hassan‘s entry on Setsuri (note: Setsuri is the name by which the movement is officially known by in Japan).
- Jung Myung-seok / Providence news archive at Religion News Blog
- ‘Your white skin arouses me’: Inside the sinister Hitler-loving Korean sex cult luring young Australian girls into being ‘spiritual brides’ for a serial rapist, Nelson Groom, Daily Mail, May 20, 2016