A South Korean pastor has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for raping or sexually molesting eight female followers who believed he was God.
The Seoul Central District Court on Thursday said that Lee Jae-rock of the Seoul-based Manmin Central Church was convicted of abusing the women “habitually” for an extended period.
A court statement said the victims had “absolute belief in Lee’s religious authority” and thought they could go to heaven if they obeyed his order.
The court said that Lee had denied the charges against him. Both Lee and prosecutors have one week to appeal.
Some of the eight women gave their accounts about Lee’s abuses in a series of programs by local JTBC television network in April.
They described how Lee summoned each of them to his apartment at night and raped them by telling them they were improving their chances to go to heaven. Their names were not disclosed and faces obscured.
Lee, reportedly 75, set up his church in Seoul’s formerly blue-collar Guro neighbourhood in 1982.
It has more than 135,000 followers, according to the church’s website, which is also filled with claims of Lee’s miracle cures through prayer.