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"Korean Doomsday Cult Sentenced"

(Associated Press, July 11, 2000)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - A South Korean court sentenced two leaders of a doomsday cult to 10 years in prison each Tuesday on charges of swindling followers out of millions of dollars.
Mo Haeng-ryong, 66, founder and head of the indigenous Chunjonhoe, or Heaven's Gathering, and his wife, Park Kui-dal, 52, were found guilty of fraud in Seoul District Criminal Court.
A dozen other cult leaders were given prison terms of up to six years on the same charges.
They were arrested following a search of the cult's headquarters in Hongchun, 125 miles northeast of Seoul, in January.
The cult, which incorporates Confucianism elements, urged followers to donate all their money, saying the world would end on Feb. 19 when it lost all its spiritual energy, prosecutors said.
With doomsday approaching, the cult leaders were preparing to flee the country with much of the money, prosecutors said.
The total amount of money scammed by the cult is estimated at $35 million.
Some of the money went to building the shrine and operating the cult's three businesses, including food, distribution and construction.
The cult was established in 1985 by Mo and his wife, who claimed they were given an order from heaven to build a holy shrine, called Daerachun, or big spiritual heaven, at Hongchun. The cult claims 150,000 members.

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Revised last: 12-07-2000