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Seoul city cancels Shincheonji permit, blames religious sect for virus

National 11:57 March 26, 2020

SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) -- The Seoul city government on Thursday canceled a permit for a Shincheonji foundation, accusing the fringe religious sect of aggravating the coronavirus outbreak.

"The Shincheonji foundation is an anti-social religious organization that only prioritizes its own protection and growth regardless of the public's health and safety, in a situation where a contagious disease is spreading across the country," Mayor Park Won-soon told a press briefing.

Seoul city officials inspect a Shincheonji facility in the northeastern ward of Nowon on March 17, 2020. (Yonhap)

Park said the foundation "significantly harmed the public," adding that the religious sect incurred unnecessary expenses and hindered government efforts to curb the outbreak by providing false information and ordering its followers to lie to health authorities.

Officials related to the Shincheonji foundation neither attended a meeting nor submitted documents explaining its stance on the accusations, Park said.

Shincheonji, estimated to have more than 200,000 followers in the country, is widely seen as having worsened the virus outbreak in South Korea.

Cases related to the religious sect account for around 55 percent of the more than 9,000 cases reported in the country.

mlee@yna.co.kr
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