The leader of a secretive South Korean sect linked to more than half the country's 4,000-plus coronavirus cases apologised Monday for the spread of the disease.
Shincheonji head Lee Man-hee's plea for forgiveness came after Seoul city authorities filed a murder complaint against him for failing to cooperate in containing the epidemic.
South Korea's case numbers the largest total anywhere outside China are expected to rise further as authorities carry out checks on more than 266,000 people associated with the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which is often condemned as a cult. "I would like to offer my sincere apology to the people," said Lee, his voice breaking. "Although it was not intentional, many people have been infected," the 88-year-old said, twice getting to his knees to bow before reporters in Gapyeong, his head to the floor.
"I seek the forgiveness of the people."
"I am very thankful to the government for its efforts," he added. "I also seek the forgiveness of the government." Lee is revered by his followers as the "Promised Pastor" who has taken on the mantle of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people with him to heaven on the Day of Judgement, which he will usher in within his own lifetime.