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In South Korea’s New Covid

作者:admin 2020-08-21

In South Korea’s New Covid  第1张

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  • Aug. 20, 2020, 6:40 a.m. ET

SEOUL, South Korea — For months, the red-brick church in a rundown neighborhood of Seoul, the South Korean capital, has attracted thousands of politically active conservative Christians, all united in the belief that their country is falling into a godless communist hell ​under the leadership of its liberal president, Moon Jae-in.

Devotees of the church, known as the Sarang Jeil Church, whose name means “love comes first,” have participated in some of the largest antigovernment protests the country has seen in years.

“If we hesitate, it will not be long before we live under the ‘great leader’ of North Korea. Do you want that?” the Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, the church’s chief pastor, said during a large antigovernment rally in central Seoul last Saturday.

Now their political crusade is colliding with the coronavirus, as a large outbreak centered on the church spreads fast through Seoul and beyond, threatening the country’s success in fighting the pandemic.

Mr. Moon has accused his most vocal critics of spreading the infectious disease and putting the entire nation in danger — a sentiment widespread on social media. Police officers have been sent to track down Sarang Jeil congregants who have broken quarantine.

But in today’s polarized South Korean society, fraught with fake news, conspiracy theories and fear-mongering, alternative narratives have also taken hold, purporting that the congregants have become the target of a political witch hunt or even a terrorist attack from communists.

Conservative activists have accused Mr. Moon of trying to scapegoat the church to divert attention from his weak approval ratings, which have been plummeting over domestic policy blunders like soaring housing prices. Church officials even suspect health officials manipulated virus-test results to keep Mr. Moon’s die-hard critics quarantined.

In the past week, the outbreak has forced the church to shut down, and its congregants to isolate themselves at home. The infections among church members and their contacts have spiked to 676 cases, including Mr. Jun.

ImageIn South Korea’s New Covid  第2张

The outbreak pushed South Korea’s daily caseload to 288 on Thursday, the seventh straight day of triple-digit jumps, which shattered hopes that the country had managed to blunt the epidemic sooner than most nations. It marked the biggest cluster of infections in South Korea since an outbreak in the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the central city of Daegu in February and March was tied to 5,200 patients.

Health officials have warned that the outbreak at Sarang Jeil could prove far more devastating than Shincheonji’s.

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