Korean doomsday sect Grace Road saga deepens with leader in Fiji custody

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Since becoming established in Fiji in 2014, the South Korean-founded cult Grace Road has expanded
Since becoming established in Fiji in 2014, the South Korean-founded cult Grace Road has expanded its business empire throughout the country. Image: OCCRP

By Henry Pope

Fiji’s government has taken the local leader of an influential South Korean doomsday sect into immigration custody after he and several other members of the Grace Road Church were declared “prohibited migrants” based on charges filed in 2018.

Fiji had announced last Thursday that it was taking steps to deport Daniel Kim and the other sect members who had been detained.

The passports of the sect members had been annulled by the Korean government in 2021, and Interpol “red notices” were issued against them.

Fiji Home Affairs Minister Pio Tikoduadua revealed that all of this had been ignored by the previous repressive Fiji government led by former prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama, according to Fijivillage News and other local media.

Tikoduadua said two sect members had already been deported while the deportations of another two were temporarily halted by a court order.

One more member was still at large.

A joint investigation by the Organised Crime and Corruption Organising Project (OCCRP) and KICJ-Newstapa last year exposed how the secretive Grace Road became an economic powerhouse in Fiji during the 16-year rule of Bainimarama, who lost power in elections last December.

Reporters discovered that the church was able to thrive in Fiji despite Kim and other key members being wanted on international warrants.

The investigation also uncovered how the church expanded its empire, which included a farm, restaurants, petrol stations, and supermarkets, all while receiving millions in state-backed loans.

Grace Road’s spiritual leader, Kim’s mother Ok-joo Shin, was arrested at Seoul’s international airport in 2018 and imprisoned for offences, including assault, child abuse, and imprisoning church members.

Around the same time, South Korean police attempted to bring Kim and other church members back on similar charges in Fiji but were forced to return empty-handed after a court blocked their removal.

Republished with permission from the Organised Crime and Corruption Organising Project (OCCRP).

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