Judgenot, I didn't think I was being slanderous, just my opinion based on my experience. I don't doubt that your experience may have been different from mine. I never thought the church was strange at all until I went to Korea in 1996 and experienced some disturbing practices at the shilsup camp. It was run like an army camp, complete with corporal punishment, group punishment and sleep deprivation. It was here that I witnessed inexperienced workers (like myself) put in dangerous situations. I saw a kid nearly cut off his thumb with a circular saw. I was under a roof that collapsed under the weight of working students above. I think about it often - I could have died! So many of us experienced injuries, but it was almost like a badge of honour to continue to work through the injuries. At the end of the camp, it was testimony time where people expressed their experiences from camp. Despite me feeling exactly the opposite, I ended up crying my eyes out and telling everyone I thought the camp was like heaven on earth, and that I fully experienced living "as one" in fellowship with my brothers and sisters. It was only weeks later at home after I was able to catch up on sleep that I realized I was brainwashed. I'm not saying that the purpose of the camp was to brainwash people, but the hard labour, sleep deprivation and constant sermons do have a huge impact on the mind - and I wasn't in my right mind.
At this camp, I saw Mr. Yoo when he came for a visit. I had never really heard of him before or thought he was anyone special. I think he just got released from prison. But based on the reactions of my fellow camp-mates, I realized that the devotion to this man was extraordinary. It was like he was a celebrity, stepping out of his luxury Mercedes Benz - the people went nuts! When I say he was worshiped, this is what I mean. His life story became like a bit of a legend, often repeated in reverence. We started singing songs that he composed instead of hymns. We bought plastic piggy banks that he designed. We bought T-shirts containing lyrics of children's songs that he composed. There was even a group of University students who literally believed he was divine - although this was a small group and they were shunned and probably pushed out.
In North America, there was much less of this "Yoo worship", but to be clear, there were a lot of devotees who treated him like he was anointed by God himself. If you disagreed with him on anything, you were done. End of story. It happened to my family and others. My parents were close to a senior church leader who disagreed with Mr. Yoo and they were warned personally by Mr. Yoo's wife not to associate with him. In the end, they weren't kicked out formally, but shunned so badly that we had to leave.
As far as the doctrine of the church, there is nothing strange there. From what I can gather, it is the standard evangelical baptist doctrine of having to be "born again", "saved", "redeemed" whatever you want to call it, in order to partake in life as a Christian. There was an unhealthy emphasis on end-times prophecies in my opinion, but that was starting to wane in more recent years. As has been said before, the majority of members are good, reasonable people.
I call Mr. Yoo "evil" based on his actions, not his motives or intentions. I'm sure in his mind he was always working for a good purpose. But his whole business was built on the backs and dollars of dedicated church members like my family. Many families were ruined financially. I've met many people with stories that would break your heart. The amount that church members donated is staggering. Forget tithes, it was not unusual for people to take out loans for the purpose of donating to the church. I've heard that church operations, the actual cost of meeting, spreading the gospel, etc. was less than 10% of what was actually donated. The rest went to buying land, ships, building factories, etc.
Church members were also expected to buy the various health products from the affiliated companies, principally Semo products. We consumed so much shark liver oil (at $100 a bottle) that the excess was literally leaking out of our asses when we farted. I wore maxi-pads to school! We were also expected to become travelling salesmen. My mom was pressured into selling the stuff door to door like Amway. She hated it so instead of selling it, we just bought more. This expanded to other products, pineapple enzyme, biphidus, organic ramen, the list goes on and on.
Knowing the lives that were ruined from these endeavours and how the donated money was spent is the worst part of this story to me. Instead of spending money on training, proper business practices and paying qualified people to run his businesses, he spent millions of dollars on a useless art exhibit on a ferry boat, donations to the Louvre, renting space for his pictures. It's unforgivable. The damage done is enormous. It may be true that he wasn't involved in day to day operations of the ferry boat company, but he was in charge. Nobody would dare defy him. And just like any company in Canada, the US or Korea, the company and owners should be vicariously liable for negligence. And if he was innocent, he should have defended himself - not go on the run like a criminal. Such a sad ending to a sad story.