The Korean religious sect targeting Australian campuses for recruitment

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For Nathan, it started with a survey. He was on campus at the University of Western Australia when he was approached by someone he thought was another student and asked to answer a set of questions.

Nathan, whose name has been changed, didn’t know it at the time but this survey was the beginning of his recruitment into a religious sect called Shincheonji.

Over four years, his indoctrination became so acute he gave up his friends, studies and hobbies and allowed a wedge to be driven between himself and his parents.

Finally, at the end of January, he left the group.

Nathan says he did not give much thought to the details being asked about in that first survey. Slowly, though, he realised the information was used by a network of people around him to orchestrate social situations, coerce his thoughts and manipulate his decisions and actions.

In less than a year he had entered the “church” as a full member. For the three years after, almost his every waking moment was consumed by it.

Shincheonji Church of Jesus has its roots in South Korea, and is headed by Lee Man-hee, a man who claims to be a messenger for God and the only person who can correctly interpret the Bible. The group is sometimes referred to as a doomsday cult and its members believe a day of judgement is coming in which everyone who is not a member of the “church” will be destroyed.

Nathan, now 23, climbed the ranks within the sect and employed the same coercive tactics used on him to bring others into the secretive group. Eventually, he became a group leader.

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