The fastest-growing religious sect in South Korea is the offshoot new religious movement Shincheonji. Lee Man-hee found the new religious movement on 14 March 1984. It is officially recognized as the Shincheonji Church of Jesus and abbreviated as SCJ. It is a combination of Korean words, which translates to “New Heaven and Earth.” The religious movement is also known as the temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.
The church had several negative responses and even described as a doomsday cult. Thousands of media articles were published and became the centre of scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea. A 61-year-old who was a Shincheonji member got infected with the virus and spread among other church members, which led to the virus outbreak in South Korea. However, despite the negative response, the church actively participates in various cultural and volunteer efforts. The church runs various social organizations. The Olympics-style athletics festival is a popular event hosted by the church.
The journey of the church began with the founder and leader of the church Lee Man-hee. He was previously a member of other religious groups. Later, Lee Man-hee found the new religious movement and established the first Shincheonji temple in Anyang, Gyeonggi province, in March 1984. In June 1990, the Zion Christian Mission Center under the church was established in Seoul. Despite the negative response, the membership of the church began to grow. Membership was further divided into twelve tribes according to the geographic territories within South Korea. In 2014, the membership of the church was estimated to 120,000 members. At present, the church and its teachings are widespread across the world.
The church’s doctrine state that Lee Man-hee, the founder and leader of the church, is the pastor promised in the New Testament contained in the Holy Bible. It states that the present world is living in the time prophesied by the Book of Revelation. It further talks about how salvation or eternal life lies within true faith with the members. Everyone who is not part of the church will be denied forgiveness and destroyed during the final judgment.
Many men and women who combine Shincheonji tend to be zealots, quitting their schools or employment from the process. Since being fanatics, members devote their focus on proselytizing. From the beginning, all Shincheonji followers are taught to memorize unique meanings, which they presume were created by Lee. They say, as an example, that the term’bird’ simply means’Holy Spirit and that the phrase’tree’ stands for’church.’ Because of this, Shincheonji’s disciples utilize those interpretations to decode passages from the book of Revelation. They are certain that they are those capable of deciphering the clues shown in the Book of Revelation. The party considers its characteristics to be equal to all other theories established in the past 6,000 years.