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(3rd LD) Charity groups reject Shincheonji's 12 bln-won donation

National 21:33 March 06, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES with 2nd rejection, minor edits)

SEOUL, March 6 (Yonhap) -- Two charity groups said Friday they've rejected a donation by a minor religious sect at the center of a rapid rise in coronavirus cases in South Korea, citing negative publicity associated with the group.

The Shincheonji Church of Jesus donated 12 billion won (US$10.1 million) to the Seoul-based Community Chest of Korea on Thursday, saying that it feels responsibility for the massive number of virus infections. But the Community Chest of Korea offered to return it Friday.

The charity confirmed that the donation was made without prior consultations with the group.

"We've verified the intention to make the massive donation," the organization said. "Considering morally and legally sensitive situations surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, we agreed with the Shincheonji church to return it."

Later Friday, Shincheonji sought to donate the 12 billion won to Hope Bridge Korea Disaster Relief Association but that donation was rejected as well.

In a statement, Hope Bridge said it already had agreements in place to work with other fundraising organizations.

The Daegu municipal government, meanwhile, also refused to accept part of the donation through the charity.

The church earlier said its branch in Daegu has offered 10 billion won and that its headquarters granted 2 billion won.

"We decided not to receive 10 billion deposited in the account of the Daegu office of the Community Chest of Korea by the Shincheonji church in Daegu," said Mayor Kwon Young-jin. "Shincheonji should focus more on supporting the government's quarantine measures, instead of paying money."

Kwon cited cases of Shincheonji followers who refuse to be admitted to state-run treatment centers for coronavirus patients or to be tested for infection.

Last week, the city government took legal action against the local church for hindering the government-led disease control efforts by providing false information.

The branch of the Shincheonji church in the southeastern city of Daegu is thought to be the epicenter of the latest spike in infections. The number of COVID-19 infections in the country reached 6,593 on Friday.

Earlier this week, Lee Man-hee, the founder of the homegrown religion, apologized for the spread of the disease and vowed to fully cooperate with government efforts to combat it.

The Community Chest of Korea (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The Community Chest of Korea (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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