The short of the current political scandal in Korea is that a women named Choi Soon Shil, a long time confidant of President Park, was revealed to have been controlling important government decisions without any official post. She is also being accused of amassing a large amount of wealth by abusing her close relationship with the president.
One of the ways Choi was able to become a close friend of President Park was through Choi's father back when President Park was a daughter of a dictator. Park had just lost her mother to an assassination when she met Choi Tae Min, a known cult leader. Choi, who created his own breed of religion that combined Christianity, Buddhism, and Shamanism, claimed to have power to communicate with the dead, including President Park's late mother. He then introduced his daughter, Choi Soon Shil, claiming that she could also communicate with the dead spirits. The Choi's had such a big influence over young president Park that the dictator himself ordered them to be separated from Park. But the relationship continued, and Park's affiliation with Choi's cult continued into her presidency.
Ultimately, the current president became the first president to openly attend and support what most Koreans would consider cult-ish religious groups. She was seen in religious ceremonies that had shamans and mediums as leader. Some argued in the past that this was a problem, but many more defended the president's privacy and right to have any religion of her choice.
However, the current scandal seems to have exposed that President Park allowed her private life -- religion -- to affect her public post of presidency by allegedly inviting Choi Soon Shil, a daughter of a cult leader and a cult supporter herself, into making important decisions for the Korean government.
With the question of whether a person with great public influence should be able to be in a questionable religious group, some netizens have brought to light actor Park Bo Gum's religious affiliation. Park Bo Gum has been open about faith since debut, tweeting Bible verses and discussing the importance of his faith during interviews.
The actor's church, 'Jesus Centered Church,' which Park Bo Gum himself testified he has been attending since his birth, has officially been named 'cult' by almost all Christian organizations in Korea due to its problems, including encouraging people with serious medical conditions to use exorcism for cures and abandon medical treatment altogether. They often perform exorcisms during services.
Bo Gum himself explained in one interview that when he was little, he became gravely ill, only to be cured by the church. In the same interview that talks about his miraculous healing, he also shares that the pastor of his church, Lee Choi Suk, named him Bo Gum, meaning "treasure sword."
[Park Bo Gum at a church retreat with pastor Lee Choi Suk; video was uploaded on the church's website]
[Park Bo Gum signing in the church choir]
Perhaps most disturbingly, 'Jesus Centered Church' was involved in the mysterious death of a woman back in 2000 who was found dead with several broken bones and bruises at the conference led by the church's pastor, Lee Choi Suk; she allegedly attended the service to be cured of her illness. This case was never resolved.
Netizens have questioned the actor's religion in the past, but since it is his personal life, many have been supportive of Park Bo Gum and his choice of faith. However, in light of the president's scandal involving individuals who allegedly had spiritual influence over the her, some netizens are concerned that the famous and beloved actor's involvement in a cult could lead his young fans into the same religion.
One netizen commented:
"I knew Park Bo Gum believed in a cultish religion but I didn't know it was this bad..."
Another person stated:
"The problem with celebrities is that they encourage the thought, 'there's nothing wrong with cults.'"
Some supported the actor:
"A celebrity's religion doesn't matter at all as long as he is good at what he does. I don't care if he believes in flying spaghetti or whatever. However, it is important for a politician to not be influenced by her religion."
But another netizen argued:
"Of course it matters. A person in the eyes of the public can spread his faith. He can influence young fans...It's okay if he doesn't talk about it, but he should not mention his cult faith to anyone."
The video above shows one of the services from Park Bo Gum's church in question.
Netizens continue to debate as the historical scandal in Korea's political scene continues to consume the nation.