Had it been any other week, Ji-yeon Park, a 26-year-old nail artist, would have been at her twice-a-week bible study with her fellow Shincheonji worshippers. Instead, she says, her life has come to a halt as she worries about her church and if she, too, has been infected.

Jiyeon is one of 230,000 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a doomsday sect at the heart of the Covid-19 outbreak in South Korea, and she says she is scared of being found out about her faith.

Authorities believe a large number of cases are members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus or have been in contact with someone who is. With about 80% of the 1,766 cases connected to the sect, fear and hatred towards the church is on the rise.

But Ji-yeon says blaming the church is unfair. “Our church didn’t invent the virus. This is just an excuse to shift blame. Throughout history, minority groups have always been blamed for bad things happening in society. The same is happening to us.”

Ji-yeon joined the church two years ago, when she first…

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‘We’re treated like criminals’: South Korean sect feels coronavirus backlash | World news
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