22 Nov 2019

Call for inquiry into Fiji govt links with South Korean cult

2:01 pm on 22 November 2019

An Opposition MP in Fiji has called for an inquiry into the operations of South Korean cult - Grace Road Church - in the country.

Shin Ok-ju, the founder of Grace Road Church, who was arrested in South Korea, accused of enslaving some 400 followers in Fiji.

Shin Ok-ju, the founder of Grace Road Church, who was arrested in South Korea, accused of enslaving some 400 followers in Fiji. Photo: Grace Road Church

The church believes Fiji to be the promised land, and hundreds of followers have moved there, where they work in a range of plantations and businesses.

Stories by RNZ Pacific, and a documentary that aired on Al-Jazeera earlier this month, have reported that the church allegedly holds a number of ties with government officials and lucrative government contracts.

The cult's leader, Shin Ok-ju, was sentenced to six years in jail in July, after a South Korean court found her guilty of enslaving her followers in Fiji.

Opposition whip, Lynda Tabuya, has called for an inquiry into Grace Road's operations in Fiji, and for all operations to be suspended.

"This extensive news report uncovered the intimate connections between the Grace Road Church and this government. In it, the report alleges that Grace Road has been given lucrative government contracts, including renovations to the president and prime minister's residences."

Sodelpa MP Lynda Tabuya.

Sodelpa MP Lynda Tabuya. Photo: Wikimedia commons / Stemoc

National Federation Party MP Lenora Qereqeretabua questioned why the government had not taken any action against the group for its leader's "derogatory remarks" against the Fijian people.

"After all, if you are not a Fiji citizen and you criticise the government - like Fiji-born Dr Brij Lal - you are sent out of Fiji on the next plane," she said.

"But if you insult Fiji's people and say you will enter politics to take over the government, then our Fiji government has no problem with that."

Fijian MP Lenora Qereqeretabua

Fijian MP Lenora Qereqeretabua Photo: Supplied

Ms Qereqeretabua urged the government to explain how Grace Road has been allowed to establish cafes and bakeries - businesses reserved for Fiji citizens under the Foreign Investment Act.

When contacted on Thursday, a Grace Road official told RNZ Pacific he would not comment on the matter.

Employment Minister Parveen Bala earlier told the Fiji Times that matters involving the Grace Road Group have been settled by the government.

Mr Bala did not disclose what those matters are, or how they had been settled.

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