Lee Man-hee, 88, leader of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in South Korea, publicly apologized for the sect’s role in the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020

South Korean authorities have arrested the pastor of a church that was at the centre of the country’s coronavirus outbreak. 

Lee Man-hee, 88, head of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was arrested on Saturday following a probe into thousands of infections among the sect’s members. 

Over 5,000 Shincheonji members came down with the virus, accounting for 36% of all confirmed Covid-19 cases across South Korea. 

The pastor is accused of keeping information about members and gatherings from contact tracers. 

He is also accused of holding unapproved religious events and embezzling 5.6bn won ($4.7m; £3.6m), the BBC reports. 

He and the church have denied any wrongdoing.  The church claims that Lee had been concerned about the privacy of Shincheonji members.

“The court’s issuance of an arrest warrant doesn’t mean a guilty verdict,” the church said.

“All possible efforts will be made to unveil the truth in the upcoming court trials.”

Soon after the outbreak of Covid-19 in South Korea, when much of the blame for the rapid spread was being pinned on the sect, Man-hee publicly apologized.

Speaking back in March, he said: “I would like to offer my sincere apology to the people on behalf of the members.”


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