In October 2016, I was interviewed by Der Standard about the murder of a Korean mother committed by five of her relatives, including her 16-year-old son, in Frankfurt during an attempted exorcism to rid her of demonic possession. The role of demons and Satan in the Korean cults I document on my site is certainly large, and there was initial suspicions that the family were members of a Korean cult. That’s certainly possible, but they could also simply be a very dysfunctional family with severe mental health issues, or the family might have operated as a small cult itself. The family members are currently on trial, and as of the time of writing, I don’t think they have said anything really about their mother’s murder.
Out Of Their Minds
In Frankfurt, there are five South Koreans on trial who are supposed to have killed a relative during a devil’s exorcism. The origin of this bloody deed could lie in the distinct sect system in their home country.
Frankfurt / Seoul / Vienna – What is it that exactly happened on December 5, 2015 in Room 433 of a Frankfurt luxury hotel? That the Frankfurt district court is trying to find out since last week. Accused in the trial, to be done within 15 days of hearings planned until mid-January, are five South Koreans. They remain silent and do not intend speak.
Hence, there is only one version of the story of what had happened – the one brought up by the prosecutor, which is: a group of South Koreans went to Germany to open a business. In Sulzbach (town near Frankfurt), they rented a house, but they felt it was possessed by demons so they moved out and into the indicated hotel.
In the end, the following conclusions were be drawn: The 41-year-old Seon Hwa P. began to soliloquize, to scream and to beat herself. The others, her son, her cousin and their 2 children started to perform an exorcism. Over hours they held the 41-year-old tight, kneeled on her chest, and stuffed a small towel plus a coated hanger in her mouth so she couldn’t scream anymore. The woman did not survive.
Many questions must now be clarified. Whether it was murder, manslaughter, or body injury with death, is the one the court has to find an answer. The most important question, however, is that of WHY. Psychological tests have not led to any diminished liability in the case of the South Koreans to eliminate this path. For this purpose, there is a further starting point: the accused, it is said, are Christians with shaman influences.
Around 8,500 kilometers east of Frankfurt, Peter Daley picks up the telephone. The expatriate lives in South Korea’s capital city Seoul and teaches English at a university. “I have followed the case in Frankfurt. This has made me think of a few groups that I have been researching,” says the 43-year-old to STANDARD. By groups, Daley means sects, which he has done lots of research about, since he moved to South Korea in 2002, seeing his fellow-roommate being threatened at that time as she wanted to leave a sect. In his blog, he makes the activities of numerous sect public. On the contrary, he has also been threatened or even accused – until now without success.
Demonic powers, says Daley, “there are many sects here that use “the Devil” to frighten their members and so to take control over them “. Identification of the group (if there is a group involved) in Frankfort to a group in South Korea is difficult since there are many greater and smaller sects, which sometimes just consist of a few family members; plus several common religious communities with sect alike tendencies/elements.
To have a full picture and number of all kinds of sects in South Korea is tricky. Daley estimates the amount of worshipped “messiahs” is about 40 to 50, others guess about 60 to 70, and the total number of sects is estimated by experts to be around 100. But these numbers need to be considered with great caution. “The authorities generally don’t interfere unless something major happens, says Daley, usually the sects then just change their names in order to avoid prosecution (and continue committing crimes after prosecution). That makes it so hard to count the amount of sects.
Therefore, even for the total amount of the members there are only indicative values. “Earlier, I have heard that the large sects are composed of 100,000 to 150,000 people,” says Daley. One of the most widely known sects is the Unification church, more particularly known as “moon sect”, which draws media attention through mass wedding procedures.
This raises a number of questions: Why are sects specifically in South Korea so popular? Daley mentions a number of reasons: “Shamanism was the main religion for a long time, the belief in good and evil ghosts were deep down in society. In addition, society focuses more on collectivism than individualism. People feel attracted by groups, that’s what sects offer. As last point, Daley mentions the strong traditional respect for the elderly, which helps those pretending to be “messiahs”.
Finding Consolation in Sects
Tark Ji-il has a further explanation. The sect expert and professor of the Presbyterian University in Busan said in an interview with the news magazine The Diplomat, most of the controversial religious groups in South Korea have their origin in one of the 3 following phases of the country: during the Japanese occupation in the first half of the 20th century, during the Korean War (1950-1953), and finally during the time of military dictatorships during 1960 to 1980. In the first 2 phases, a time of big sorrow, religious groups helped to find consolation and comfort. In the last phase, so Tark, sect leaders finally could get settled as they supported the military dictatorships in comparison to what traditional churches do.
This all does not answer the question of the “Why” in the case of the Frankfurter exorcism – which can only be answered by the accused- But it is an attempt of explanation. Rituals as this happened in Germany, Peter Daley has rarely seen in South Korea. But it happens. At the end of the year, a 25-year-old woman was found beheaded in the town of Siheung. The mother and brother, who were detained, indicated that they were obsessed by demons. They wanted to free them.