The Diplomat: The Cults of South Korea

The Cults of South Korea by John Power

The sinking of the Sewol ferry and the revelation that the owner – who quickly became a fugitive before being found dead on a hill – was the leader of his own cult resulted in increased media interest in Korean cults in general. Reporter John Power interviewed me for his story about Korean cults. Below are the parts of our conversation that made it into his piece:

“With these groups, there’re no shades of grey, everything is absolute: ‘yes, this guy is the messiah, yes, if you follow him you’ll go to heaven,’” said Daley, who claimed that his website and work with media has seen him threatened by disgruntled followers. “Some people feel that the … more mainstream groups sometimes don’t make these grandiose claims. So when a group comes along with all the answers to ‘a,’ ‘b,’ and ‘c,’ that can be appealing to some people.”

Peer pressure and the deference toward one’s elders present in Korea society also work to the advantage of cult leaders, he said. “Then you get these older Korean guys dressed up in suits; it can be hard for a younger Korean person to question that, especially when a new member is thrust into an environment where there are a lot of current members.”