Cult leader maybe abusing lawyer visits in prison: lawmaker

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Suspicions of cult leader Jeong Myeong-seok abusing lawyer visits have risen, with records showing that he had visits from his legal representative on average of 1.7 times a day during his detention since October, a lawmaker revealed Wednesday.

According to Rep. Park Bum-gye of the main opposition Democratic Party, Jeong had met lawyers 265 times during his current detention as of March 3. He was detained on Oct. 4 on suspicion of sexually assaulting his follower in the South Korean religious group Christian Gospel Mission or Jesus Morning Star (JMS), which claims Jeong as a “Messiah.”

After completing a 10-year prison sentence in February 2018 for the rape of his followers, the 78-year-old was again indicted on charges of raping or sexually assaulting a 29-year-old Chinese follower on 17 occasions. The sexual abuse against the 29-year old is believed to have begun in the month he was released from prison, and continued until September 2021. Jeong is also charged with five counts of sexual assault against a 31-year-old Australian follower.

Lawyer visits differ from other visits in that prisoners can use a separate room without a glass wall separating them from their visitors. There are no limitations on the duration of lawyer’s visits, or the number of times they can occur.

However, the number of lawyer’s visits Jeong has had is much higher than in the cases of Samsung Electronics President Lee Jae-yong (1.24 times a day) in 2018, former President Park Geun-hye’s aide Choi Seo-won (0.82), also known as Choi Soon-sil, in 2018 and former President Lee Myung-bak (0.6) in 2022.

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