A Pacific Advocate exclusive investigation
in shocking allegations made against a religious sect with ties to the Fijian Government, it has been claimed that more than 100 children from South Korea have been living in a compound and were hidden in shipping containers when authorities turned up to investigate.
The allegations centre around the controversial Grace Road Church from South Korea, which believes the world is heading towards an inevitable apocalypse and the only place to survive this is Fiji.
Former employees of the sect claim that they have seen children hidden in the container in Navu, Fiji.
In 2018, police from South Korea came to investigate allegations by former church members who say they escaped the clutches of the group and since returned home. It was during this raid that employees say the children were hidden in the containers.
Since the sect initially moved hundreds of people from Korea to Fiji, where they secured 400 hectares of farmland, they have expanded to supermarkets, coffee shops, restaurants, beauty shops, and service stations.
While at first employment in the sect’s business operations were only open to church members, who are all Korean, local Fijians are now able to find employment due to the group’s expanding operations.
There are simply not enough church members to keep up with the increased business. Church followers who arrive from South Korea sign over their wealth to the church and dedicate their life to service in any way possible.
They find themselves working on farms and in other businesses which the church operates. Miranda (not her real name) stays in the area where the Grace Road Farm and its processing centres are located.
She has claimed that some of the children are also used as workers and when they are of a mature age they are absorbed full time into the workforce.
“I used to work on the farm and then I was in their packing section. I worked mostly with women as men were not allowed to mingle. I have seen families come from South Korea, and the husband, wife and children are told to stay separately,” Miranda said.
“So when they are separated, the children are attended by someone else. The younger ones stay together. I have not seen them go to school but I have seen them being taught by one of the Korean older ladies. I am not sure if it was school work or religious teaching.
“I remember when the South Korean police came. They hid all the children inside a container because if the children would have been found, I think they would have taken them back to Korea.”
Miranda has also made claims that the church was paying the local enforcement agencies. She said she knew this because a relative who was with the police would get money from the church.
Miranda said there was little to no interaction with the Korean church members because it was their rule and if they broke any of the rules, they would be shouted at and even assaulted.
This account of workers being assaulted verbally and physically was also relayed by two people who are currently employed by the church.
“We have seen the Korean workers being assaulted. Many times we have seen them come to work with black eyes. We are not allowed to talk to each other. For us being Fijians that is really hard because we like to talk when we work,” one of them said.
The church has a practice of driving bad spirits out of a follower called ‘threshing the floor’ where a church follower would be assaulted by the so called church leaders. Even the children are allegedly subjected to this.
In July, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a global network of investigative journalists with staff on six continents released an expose showing the growth of the Grace Road Church in Fiji and the so called atrocities committed by it.
The report highlighted that much of the church’s business profit was on the back of unpaid labour from their church followers who gave all their wealth to the church.
The report also highlighted that because of its economic contribution the Fijian Government had backed the church’s projects by providing loans and other assistance when needed.
In response, Fiji’s Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum questioned the integrity of the report and the organisation who had written the report. He said unless such a report was made by a United Nations body or someone like Transparency International, it carries no weight.
Prior to publishing, The Pacific Advocate made numerous attempts to talk to Grace Road Church leader in Fiji and son of their jailed leader, Daniel Kim, however all attempts have been rejected.