Fiji Moves to Deport Members of Korean Doomsday Sect
Fiji’s government announced Thursday that it was moving to deport six members of a powerful Korean doomsday sect from the Pacific country.
Fijian Home Affairs Minister Pio Tikoduadua said in a statement that he had declared six members of the Grace Road Church, including its local leader, Daniel Kim, “prohibited migrants” on the basis of charges filed in South Korea in 2018.
Two sect members have already been deported, while another two had their deportations temporarily halted by a court order, Tikoduadua said. But he added that local leader Kim and another church member, Yoon Jin-sook, remain at large.
"We're unable to reach them and the relevant authorities are looking for them," he said.
However, Kim emerged at one of Grace Road’s businesses later in the day to deny to local media that he was on the run.
“[Tikoduadua] described us as fugitives, as criminals. I cannot accept this word. He must… apologize,” Kim said.
A joint investigation by OCCRP and KICJ-Newstapa last year revealed how the secretive Grace Road grew into an economic powerhouse in Fiji during the repressive 16-year rule of former Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who lost power in elections last December.
Reporters found 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 was able to grow its empire — which includes a farm, restaurants, petrol stations, and supermarkets — 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, Korean police came to Fiji and attempted to bring Kim and other church members back on similar charges, but were forced to go home empty handed after a court blocked their removal.
“In July 2018, Red Notices were published by Interpol referring to these individuals as ‘Fugitives wanted for Prosecution’,” Tikoduadua said in his statement.
“All of these were ignored by the former government.”