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Author Topic: Thoughts on First Encountering JMS....  (Read 2822 times)

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March 04, 2015, 03:47:53 AM
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Offline Peter

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Thoughts on First Encountering JMS....
« on: March 04, 2015, 03:47:53 AM »
I'm just revisiting and in the process of rewriting an older account I posted seven years ago:

Last night (August 15, 2008) I had a really good chat with a member of JMS. I was honestly blown away by what a sincere, peaceful, and honest conversion we had. Although I really do think JMS is one of the worst cults around, it was a reminder that destructive cults are often inhabited by good people. I guess that's the real evil of Jeong Myeong-seok and others like him: their ability to recruit good people for their horrible self-serving causes. That isn't to say there aren't some truly despicable people in its ranks, and generally the higher up the hierarchy, the less "nice" they become.

One part of the conversation that got me thinking later was the question of how I came to set up this site and its predecessor: www.jmscult.com/archive (No longer online)

That takes me back 5 years almost to the day to the summer of 2003. I just happened to live in the closest town to Wolmyeong-Dong, the base of the cult. Guemsan is a small country town situated about 30 kilometers south of the city of Deajon. Being the closest town to JMS HQ, there were lots of members in Guemsam. Of course both myself and my colleague and flatmate had never heard of JMS. My flatmate joined I think after we had been in town about a week. We both arrived to establish a small English school there just before Christmas 2002; Christmas Day was her first day at a JMS church. She thought the first day a little odd, at least not what she was expecting from what was touted as a Christian service, and I remember joking with her early on, "You haven't come here and joined a cult in your first week have you?" We laughed because we thought the idea ridiculous, but of course she had joined a cult her first week here. I grew up a Catholic, but lost interest at a pretty early age and stopped going to church at the age of 17. Consequently, I wasn't looking to join a church. It's correct to say I had no interest whatsoever. Until that is, I realized the church my flatmate joined was a cult, and then, as you can see, my interest level went intergalactic.

The next 6 months passed and I took little interest in my flatmate's church. At times she would talk about the sermons she heard and I thought them pretty horrible and hateful, "God killed Lady Di because she slept with a Muslim" and "God killed JFK" were the two examples that stuck most in my mind, but all in all I didn't take much interest. I just knew that it wasn't for me. Having said that, I do remember becoming quite curious about this place that my flatmate travelled to at 3 am every morning.

Then summer came and with it a short vacation. My flatmate went home to Australia for a week; I stayed in Guemsan to just enjoy not working. I had been curious about this place called Wolmyong Dong, but not curious enough to actually go there. In fact, I found myself there quite by accident the week she away. By "accident" I mean I had no idea that that was where I was the destination when I accepted a friend's invitation to go hiking. Wolmyeong Dong wasn't mentioned and neither was anything church related. That was what first annoyed me, but I can't say I was completely annoyed - I was started getting curious. And now, some 12 years later, that curiosity has yet to wane. 

My friend had invited me hiking, so what were we doing at a church event? We didn't do any hiking! It was a hikingless hike, and I had come to hike. The event we attended that night was an all-night music and cultural festival organised by the Global Association of Culture & Peace (GACP), which was at the time JMS's main front group. It's just JMS by another name, by a name that doesn't sound churchy or cultish, and a name designed to appeal to young people. As far as front group for cults go, it was a pretty good one.

But my guard was up, and the night just got weirder and weirder. By the end of the night, or rather the beginning of the next day (6 am), I was really in no doubt that this was a cult. I remember thinking, "Ok, I've never really experienced a cult before yesterday, but I definitely have now." Instead of going to bed upon finally arriving home after 7, after being up all night, I went immediately to a PC Bang (Korean 24 hour Internet room) I found the anti-jms site www.antijms.net almost immediately, and back then it had an English section. There I read that the leader, who had appeared on a giant screen the night before to the delight of the some 2,000 twenty tear old girls there, was a fugitive wanted for rape. And not only that, he claimed to be Jesus. I wasn't sure what to make of all this, but it certainly tied in with what I had seen. A church that definitely valued young beautiful women, and their reaction to Jeong's appearance was something similar to how I imagine most Christians would react if Jesus suddenly appeared before them. But I wanted further proof that he had been charged with rape, so I called the Korean police and they confirmed it.

I had paid a small fee upon entering the night's events, from memory I think just a few dollars, but that was a few dollars more than I wanted to give to a fugitive.

My interest developed when I learnt that a lot of these people where about to go to Canada for the international GACP conference. Suddenly my curiosity increased: How could a group led by a fugitive hold such a big event in Canada? The answer was simple: by not telling anyone their leader is a wanted fugitive.

I was getting really curious by now and kept in contact with a member I met that first night who started sending me short translations of Jeong's sermons. I was just getting a page or two from what were 4 or 5 hour sermons and what I was reading was completely watered down to remove all reference he was the messiah and the usual drivel about his enemies and how evil they are. But it was enough to get me really interested, although not interested in the way my new friend had hoped. I remember my Eureka moment, in fact I have it online here.

March 04, 2015, 03:50:00 AM
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Offline Peter

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Re: Thoughts on First Encountering JMS....
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2015, 03:50:00 AM »
August 16, 2018:
The idea to start a site came when I read this short section from Jeong's Aug 31, 2003 speech which my new friend in the cult sent me in the hope I would be impressed:
Quote
There are many reasons why people don't speak up. People don't speak up because they assume it's not going to make a difference, because they want to uphold their reputation, and because they get into a habit of not speaking up. A smart and wise person is a person who speaks up boldly each time.
That was the moment I decided to make a site. The other important factor was that there wasn't much English information about JMS at the time. There was the section on the Korean site, but that was hard to find, tucked away on what was essentially an all-Korean site. There were a few articles published, but unless you were up to speed on current and past JMS front groups, the articles could have been describing different groups. You could read one article, be horrified by it, and join JMS by a different name the next day with no idea you were in the group that horrified you.

So that was the motivation. A lack of English material and the time and, ironically, the "inspirational" words of one Jeong Myeong-seok.

There was one more thing I wanted to mention before I go to bed and that stems from the conversation yesterday I had with the current member.
I told him how it was the lies and omissions that resulted in me starting this journey, and he acknowledged that yes there was a time when the rape allegations were kept secret.
And that got me thinking: What if they hadn't tried to keep them secret. What if they hadn't lied?

What if instead of invited me hiking, my friend had asked me to a go with her to a church music/cultural festival. (I probably would have said: "I'm busy that day, but thanks for the invite.")
If I had said yes and she had then said, "Actually there's something you should know, our founder has been accused of rape. I don't believe the allegations, but I thought you should know."

What if the old GACP site hadn't also lied? Here's what it looked like in 2004 when I first saw it. Link courtesy of the amazing Internet Archive. But what if they had been honest? Well, I for one would have had no reason to get (as) angry.
If they had told the truth, this site may have never been born.
And I would have appreciated their honesty and heaven forbid: maybe even believed their claims he was innocent!

Now, I sure don't want to give the cult advice on how to better recruit, but with the guilty verdict (I originally wrote this soon after the verdict) they now have a choice: Continue to lie and change names/fronts or make a change and start being honest.  I think the culture of lies and deception is so ingrained they couldn't tell the truth to a new recruit if their lives depended on it. But we shall see.
2015 update: I was right: they didn't change.

In 2006, three years after first encountering the JMS cult, I returned to Wolmyeong Dong and attended a JMS event. I have to admit I got more than I bargained for. Here's a video about that rather extraordinary, surreal, and very memorable night: