I'd like share a little more about the Mannam/SCJ "security guards" and the filming of critics which appears to be a well ingrained policy. I first noticed Mannam security guards back in September at a dance/disco event I attended at Youido:
The security guards just seemed so completely out of place and 200% unnecessary. On the surface it did indeed look like wonderful fun event, so why were the security guards on alert, talking to each other over their earpieces as though Obama was about to make an unannounced appearance?
I knew the answer, but I was pleasantly surprised when my Mannam guide - the girl who latched onto me as I left the nearby subway - was unusually straight forward and honest. I didn't ask about the security guards, but I did ask why every foreigner in view was being approached and offered a ticket into the enclosed square but not a single Korean was. The area was fenced off, and there were actually Koreans standing outside looking in as though we were in a zoo, which I guess in a way we were:
My guide - for lack of a better word - said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Mannam has enemies, we don't know who they all are, and they might come and try to disrupt the party." And that explained the security guards.
In March 2013, I attended another Mannam event - a peace parade compete with Mannam guys dressed up as evil looking Japanese soldiers complete with evil-looking mustaches. (Video coming in the summer of 2013). I filmed the parade from a distance and while doing so a pretty girl approached, said she was just waiting to meet a friend, and asked what I was doing. "I'm filming a cult event!"
We chatted a while and then she wandered off, supposedly to meet her friend. I saw her later along the route of the march intently talking to Mannam members. A few minutes later while filming amongst a group of people doing the same thing, a "security guard" came running over suddenly and started pushing me. He was joined by two other "security guards". A little swearing and some pushing resulted before they finally backed off. That's when Mannam photographers suddenly started taking an interest in me. They would walk past and suddenly take a photo of me and then not so nonchalantly walk off. I noticed four or five of them doing that. (I'd been photographed before actually in Daegu: a little adventure that ended up in a police station where a kind police officer deleted the photo for me, but that's a story for another day). So at this March event I was photographed and videoed a lot. Then a couple of months later I went along to this zoo event....
As I walk out of the station I noticed a guy in front of me turn to me, take my picture, and then run ahead as though he just remembered he had something urgent to do. A few minutes later I arrive and start filming, again there were other people around me taking photos and videos. And there were also numerous Mannam members with fake "Media" badges doing the same. Within ten seconds I was approached by the first security guard and told to stop filming. When I refused, they started following me and that young girl started videoing my face from as close as possible.
What I found really creepy was how quickly these young Mannam girls and boys obeyed the orders of the security guards. "Film him, follow him, don't speak to him, don't let him register, don't sell him a T-shirt" That really shows the side of Mannam that most foreigners rarely catch a glimpse of, and that is the cult under the surface: the authoritarian structure that doesn't belong in any peace group outside of North Korea.
And what happens to all the footage? Well this past Monday and Tuesday nights (May 6 and 7), I found myself - quite by accident - attending Shinchonji's "Open Bible Greatest Event Ever Seminar". I take my seat and, since dozens of other people in the audience are taking photos, I whip out my iPhone and snap a picture of the stage. I feel someone poke me in the back. I turn around and there is a very unhappy looking humorless lady in her late 40s/early 50s looking angrily at me: "Don't take photos!" "Oops sorry". She comes back with "Behave!" I know who you are!" "Don't cause trouble, repent!" and a little later when Man Hee Lee was talking, "Sit up straight, you're in the presence of the Lord!"
So that's what became of the footage that sweet looking young girl took of me at the zoo: