Netflix and Korean public broadcaster MBC on Thursday defeated a court application for an injunction to stop the airing of their documentary “In The Name of God: A Holy Betrayal.”
The 8-part series began airing from Friday (March 3). It is a Netflix Original, meaning that the streamer has global rights, including in Korea.
The show examines “the chilling true stories of four Korean leaders claiming to be prophets [and] exposes the dark side of unquestioning belief.”
Among its subjects is Christian Gospel Mission, also known as Providence, and also known as Jesus Morning Star, or JMS. It shares those initials with its controversial leader Jeong Myeong-seok (aka Jung Myung-seok) who is currently awaiting trial in Korea for sexually assaulting some of his female followers.
JMS sought an injunction to stop the docuseries from airing, claiming that the show is fictional, that it violates the principle of presumption of innocence and that it undermines religious freedom. However, the Seoul Western District Court said on Thursday that MBC and Netflix appeared to have made the program based on a “considerable amount” of objective and subjective materials.
The first episode pulls no punches. It starts with an audio track of a post-coital conversation in which the man compliments the woman on her wide hips and asks about her orgasm, before going on to boast of his own. It is not immediately clear whether this was a recording made at the time or is the re-enactment of actual events. It gains impact by being intercut with a to-camera interview with former JMS member Maple, who gives her full Korean name and describes her alleged sexual encounters with Jeong. “What he did was so perverted. If he actually loved me, he wouldn’t have done that,” Maple says. “I kept calling out to the Lord as I was being victimized.”
The narrative then cuts to footage of Jeong complete with pointer and tableau explaining the Biblical Adam and Eve story in overtly sexual terms. It is followed by footage of a messianic Jeong saying: “You say you can’t see God. Well, just look at me. Here’s God” and a clip of five naked women calling their “Lord” to join them in the bathtub.
“It is hard to judge that a major part of the program involving JMS is not true, simply based on the materials submitted by the group,” the court said, in reports from the Yonhap news agency.
Jeong previously served ten years in prison for raping three Korean female followers while on overseas trips between 2003 and 2006. He fled Korea when the rape charges were filed, but was deported from China to Korea in 2008. He was jailed in Korea that year and released in 2018, but was required to wear an electronic ankle bracelet.
His current charges include the “quasi-rape” of a woman from Hong Kong and another from Australia. Korea defines “quasi-rape” as sexual intercourse that takes advantage of a person’s unconsciousness or inability to resist. Upon conviction, a prison sentence of at least three years is mandatory.
The alleged rapes are said to have happened between 2018 and 2021 at JMS’s Wolmyeongdong Sanctuary in Geumsan.
JMS has denied the charges and threatened libel action against media which reported unverified facts.
Hong Kong media have quoted activist and anti-JMS campaigner Kim Do-hyeong as saying that the organization has recruited followers in Korea, Japan and Taiwan, and that other women are preparing sexual assault suits against Jeong.