Hi, it's Oscar.
There were a lot of interesting stories going on from our ex-EBC members so I decided to clear up a few things here… There's a lot of misinformation, I won't touch them all, but I'll just comment on a few when I find time.
First, the relation between the church and businesses. There is a very strong misconception here.. the idea that these church-related companies are all operated by "the church" and "Mr. Yoo". This is not true. It will differ by company but there are many companies where most of the employees are not church members. It was the same for Samwoo and Semo 20-30 years ago.. the majority of employees were non-church people. Management, perhaps is done mostly by church members but does that mean "the church" is doing the management? Do they ask "the church" or "Mr. Yoo" when making decisions at work really? The person who makes the decision to overload... does he ask "the church" or "Mr. Yoo"? Do you think the church or Mr. Yoo ordered them to overload so that they can make more money as the prosecutors claimed? What makes you think the church is behind everything and has to be responsible?
Marine safety is probably the same for any other ferry company in Korea. What makes you think Chonghaejin is any worse or any better? If overloading is a standard in the industry and everybody overloads, does the fundamental problem stem from the ferry company? Don't you think the guys who enforce it have problems? Think of the stop signs in Korea... they are useless and nobody in Korea bothers to stop at a red stop sign. In the States, you don't do that because cops are hiding somewhere to fine you. Is that the driver's problem ignoring the stop sign in Korea? You could say yes but the reason they don't stop, nor even bother to check, is because there are no cops enforcing it. Probably same with the ship overloading.
Also, church money going into these companies is a very strong misconception, too. Church money is church money.. you make a donation to a 501c3 church organization and receive a tax deductible receipt. It is the same in Korea. This church money cannot be funneled into a legally independent for-profit business or corporation. That would be a direct act of embezzlement (public funds going into a private corporation) and tax evasion. If this happened, church officers would be charged and jailed, no questions asked. Which church officer has ever been jailed for church funds embezzlement? If you think, believe and have proof church funds were used this way, go ahead and sue the church... you should.
Now about church members investing in these companies…… If you see someone investing blindly or brainwashed, I think you should feel free to go stop them from doing so. By the way, realistically speaking, how many around you ever invested in a church-related company? I've rarely seen members making investments, less donating into any church-related company, I can't even readily recall 5 church members, starting from family and friends, around me who did so. Most of you all claimed church members gave money blindly to companies, that these companies are using money from church members.. I'm a pretty strong member as you can see.. I've made donations to the church for sure, but I never gave my money to any church-related company. Is purchasing books and health products blindly giving money? There could be some people who invested in Korea, maybe a few overseas but in reality, the majority of members never gave nor invested funds to these church related companies.
One thing I find disturbing about all this company talk is that you guys know practically nothing about the companies in Korea. Their corporate structure, how many employees they have, their core businesses, their funds amount or flow, yet you make conclusions based on your personal church experience in the US. Your company facts are guesses at its very best. It is even difficult for a person like me, who has been in Korea and in the church long enough, to explain in any detail how the companies run. I'm sorry but I will have to disregard any of your comments on those Korean companies, and especially on the ferry company. If you do know something, please explain about it in detail. I think it'd be very interesting to hear about it.
There are several church-related companies making good profits in Korea. Unfortunately, when church-related businesses spend a lot, people have a very easy tendency to think that it is church money. Sorry, it's not. Exhibitions in Europe are church money? Now when did we ever collect funds for Mr. Yoo's exhibitions? The vast amount of donations in the States were for church properties nearby.. the places where church people gather together. When exactly did those funds go to the Yoo family? Give me one concrete example.
Second, the conference preparation work (수양회 준비 작업, 또는 실습, I'll just call it Shilsup.)
First of all, Shilsup is a pure volunteer event, for the preparations of the week long Bible Study Conference every summer. There is no recruitment for this but I am sure you were unwillingly pushed by your parents to participate as the main reason for sending you to Korea. I participated 3 years straight.
The preparation team is usually large, over 100 people. To work efficiently, there has to be group organization and management so there is definitely some sort of group control. However, it isn't as bad as you claim it is, as for US born and raised members, I'm sure it felt pretty tough on you all. The reason it has that sort of control is because the Shilsup leaders are normally fresh out of their mandatory army service. They tend to run it like the army. This is where the group punishments (not sure if it is worthy to call as "a punishment") comes from. It is not a church thing, because there is nothing such as group punishment in our church, but more on the "team leaders" who are in charge for that year.
If you think that Shilsup is bizarre and extreme, you should definitely look into the reality of the Korean army much more and dig into all the illegal and inhumane treatments there… you'll find stuff wwaaaay much more interesting than what you'll find in our church. For the 24 months I stayed in the army, I've experienced physical attacks (punching and kicking), physical abuse (tried group 대가리박기 (head on floor) before? it's standing on your bear head and 2 feet with your 2 hands behind your back.. it's kinda okay on grass but gravel and concrete is pretty bad even for 1 minute.. 3-5 minutes you'll be sweating and by 10 people will collapse to be kicked at), verbal/mental abuse, sexual abuse, sexual humiliation, etc, etc. Oh, there's always a lack of sleep there, too. Did I mention food with old ingredients made by cooks who have never cooked before their whole life? Peter, since you dig so well into corruption, you should definitely take a look into Korean army life... you'll find things far more shocking like the soldier who died a few days ago due to physical abuse from teammates.
Sorry for straying aside, but I wanted to make it clear that group training, if any, is more of a personality of the group leader and is usually jumping jacks together, maybe some push-ups and squat-walking of physical exercise. It is for group members to be focused and stay attentive - as a group - to prevent accidents from happening.
By the way, in regards to accidents, I have seen some minor ones but nothing severe so far. About a kid almost cutting off his finger, I'm not sure if you can call university students "kids" but I'm sure they were old enough to handle a power tool. Shilsup people handling heavy machinery.. I don't remember anyone handling serious stuff but I'm sure some people would be interested in trying it out. If they were not comfortable, they shouldn't be doing it. Safety in Korea, in general, is pretty lax from a US point of view. But nowadays, we do not even set up our tents anymore. I'm not sure how many years they've been doing it but it is all out-sourced in Korea.
I've also heard some easy going team leaders gave people too much freedom and received complaints that it did not feel like doing Shilsup at all so some people like it one way or the other. Personally, from my experience, I did not like the way it was run the first 2 years I was there. Our team leaders were picky and tough, kept a tight schedule which I did not like much. My third year was better since I was older than most participants. Overall, I do not regret the experience and I am positive I will send my kids when they are old enough.
Oh, and for those "shitty products".. well, some people will praise and be addicted to Coke and then there will be others who think it as poison so I won't be judgmental about your opinion, but one recommendation I would like to make is, if you, your children or loved ones ever get a severe burn, either from fire or by accidentally drinking highly acidic chemicals, do remember SEMO SQUALENE. It comes in larger capsules and even bottles to apply generously. It will sooth your burnt skin/bruises and heal it faster with far less or even no scars. If you burn your throat, the doctors can do nothing. Squalene will help. It seems pricey, but for the quality, I think it's worth the price. (btw, one huge box is around $900-$1,200 in Korea, which consists of 8 regular smaller boxes, if you are a frequent consumer, there are occasional discounts for those in special needs). PM me if you are in an emergency like that and don't know where to find it. I'll send you a small box amount, free of charge.
There were a bunch of other stuff to mention, but maybe later.. I'm still quite amused how Peter still has trouble believing about the 2.7 million photos taken. The original content of Ahae.com is back and did not "disappear" as you had proudly guessed, Peter. Take a look at the samples there and search hard for photos that seem off from the window view there. The window view is very dull, like any dull view of the Korean countryside. To get photos from a window view like that, IMHO, is something to consider. The feat is probably unprecedented in photography history. There should be at least some value in it, don't you think? The photos, at best, cannot technically compete with photos that are heavily HDR'ed, tweaked or photoshopped, but that is what makes it stand out in this world of staged and heavily manipulated photos.
His description on Ahae.com as an inventor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, environmental activist, martial artist, painter, sculptor, poet, and photographer, is still there, all standing strong. He never called himself or gave himself those titles nor is it what brainwashed people think he is… it is just a description of who he is and what he has done… nothing more, nothing less. Which title do you think does not fit his description or is exaggerated? It's quite amazing how twisted the media portrays him and how twisted people think of it.
If you do not believe my words that is fine. But instead of believing the news and the media, believe yourself. Check the facts for yourself one by one and verify those facts in person, by yourself. After that, it is still not too late to make a conclusion who and what stands truthful.
I would like to present 3 links by a former Editor-in-Chief for Donga (one of the 3 major publications in Korea) who wrote articles on O-dae-yang and Mr. Yoo's conviction of fraud 20 years ago. He still stands by his report he wrote back then (sorry they are in Korean.. will provide English translations when available):
1. Odaeyang and Yoo Byung-Eun http://blog.donga.com/milhoon/archives/4022
2. Yoo Byung-Eun - Is He That Evil? http://blog.donga.com/milhoon/archives/4059
(Edgar-since you know some Korean, you should definitely read this while I'm still looking into the case, especially the ridiculous testimonies the court used to convict him)
3. Yoo Byung-Eun - He Was a Sacrificial Lamb (Scapegoat) http://blog.donga.com/milhoon/archives/4081
As time passes by, more truthful articles will start to come out. Please keep your eyes open and attentive as much as you are all right now.
Btw, there's a picture of his "super luxurious and extravagent" meeting room everyone on the news was talking about. Mis-matching furniture, no fancy wall moldings, who mixes fluorescent and incandescent lights together?.. or maybe the large screen TV set on a table is luxurious? Maybe the kitchen island makes the meeting room stand out? What's so luxurious and special enough to make it on the news?