Kim Nam-hee, left, the head of International Women’s Peace Group (IWPG) and Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary-General from the video. / Screen capture from Youtube
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has denied any involvement with the Shincheonji cult after video footage showed him with the head of an affiliated group.
On Dec. 10 and 17, International Women’s Peace Group (IWPG), the Shincheonji-affiliated organization, uploaded promotional videos in English and Arabic on YouTube. In the footage, Ban appears smiling and holding hands with Kim Nam-hee, the IWPG head.
In the English video, IWPG says: “On International Women’s Day each year, IWPG Chairwoman Nam Hee Kim is invited to the U.N.”
After showing Ban and Kim holding hands, the caption read: “The U.N. and IWPG join hands of peace.”
Kim Nam-hee and Shincheonji leader Lee Man-hee at the cult’s event held in 2012
The videos made headlines because they suggest Ban, a possible Korean presidential candidate, may have a connection with the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ), which is viewed as “heretical” by mainstream Korean Christians.
Founded in 1984 by Lee Man-hee, Shincheonji came under scrutiny in 2007 when a television report claimed that followers believe Lee has eternal life.
“Lee Man-hee, the Shincheonji leader, often boasted his influence through taking pictures with then presidential candidates, including Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak,” Shin Hyeon-wook, a head of the national anti-Shincheonji association, told CBS No Cut News. “I suspect Lee might want to do the same with the footage of Ban.”
The IWPG head is reportedly the closest person to Lee and regarded as the next Shincheonji leader.
“It is more likely that Kim Nam-hee tried to whitewash the negative reputation of the Shincheonji Church by boasting her connection with Ban, who is familiar to the public,” said Pastor Daniel Ha from the Korea Christian Heresy Countermeasure Council.
Meanwhile, Ban denied any connection to Kim.
“The picture was taken by accident at the ‘International Women’s Day’ event held in New York,” Ban’s spokesman told Yonhap News Agency on Thursday. “It is difficult for Ban to reject a request to take a picture with him at a public event as secretary general. There were countless people who requested a picture like Kim.
“Ban does not know Kim at all.”