Phone Interview with Lee Tae-Jong, Aired on June 7 (MBN, Sisa Special)
Anchor: Following up on the words of the reporters, the prosecutors gave their word that they wouldn’t be going into Geumsuwon. But the people of the Salvation Sect don't believe what the prosecutors are saying. We are now here with the spokesperson of the church, Mr. Lee Tae-Jong to find out the reason why and to briefly discuss the situation. Mr. Lee Tae-Jong, are you on?
Lee: Yes, hello.
Anchor: Do you by any chance know the whereabouts of Mr. Yoo Byung-Eun?
Lee: No, I have no idea where he is.
Anchor: Do you actually not know where he is, or are you saying you don't know because we are live broadcasting right now?
Lee: No, even we are very curious to know where he is right now.
Anchor: From what our reporters say, there are currently 2,000 followers of the Salvation Sect inside Geumsuwon at the moment, but what is the precise number of people gathered there?
Lee: It is impossible to tell the precise number. Since it is break time, some people are in the main hall and some people went to go eat. I’ll probably be able to tell you the exact number of people at around 8 o'clock.
Anchor: Since the prosecutors are coming back to Geumsuwon, there might be more people, around 5,000, that are gathering. Are you expecting that many people?
Lee: We are meeting today not because the prosecutors are coming. We have our weekly congregation at 8 in the evening. Many people came today in order to study the Bible or gospel lectures. Around 5,000-6,000 people showed up last week, so we are expecting a similar number this week as well.
Anchor: The prosecutors are saying that they weren't planning to go back into Geumsuwon for some time, but in the Salvation Sect's point of view, they believe that the prosecutors are coming on Monday. Why is that?
Lee: Up until now, there have been many of us last time when the prosecutors entered. It is not that they notify us before entering. We are gathering because there is a helicopter that has been keeping monitor on us, so we have to prepare for a large number of police officers coming in as well. Until now, the prosecutors gave us a notice before they came in, but they were criticized by the press for giving us a notice and told us they weren't coming back. But we suspect that they might come back without any notice at any time.
Anchor: I see, but are they not allowed to go in suddenly after such disturbance in their operation? There is a possibility that there might be people inside Geumsuwon that have been issued arrest warrants, but is there a reason for the prosecutors not to go in without a notice?
Lee: You have to realize that these people's method of earning a living has been cut off. Until now, these people have been selling health supplement products and were involved in agricultural business, but now all the businesses are going bankrupt. These people have no way of earning income and feeding their families, and they lost their jobs because they are involved with the Salvation Sect. These people gathered here only to mourn and nothing else. For example, if the prosecutor is having a hard time when they find no one to arrest and they barge in without notice and find no good results, we are the ones to suffer for their actions and mistakes. Now, I’m worried that some people are saying they would just give up instead of protecting each other.
Anchor: A short while ago, they announced that they have no one to arrest, but that is to be determined when they actually go in. However, regarding the way the people in the Salvation Sect is acting right now, don't you feel it's obstructing the prosecutors' job of carrying out law enforcement?
Lee: That is precisely why we try to allow the prosecutors through the gates without any physical confrontation. We also want to tell them to feel free to search wherever they please and make their own judgment calls. But it's hard when the prosecutors take such drastic measures against us. It’s very hard on our part.
Anchor: I want to ask you something, Mr. Lee. The leader of the Salvation Sect—the Evangelical Baptist Church; is it Mr. Yoo Byung-Eun or someone else?
Lee: In a church of Christians, the leader is Jesus and Him only. If Jesus being the leader is denied, then it becomes a totally different religion instead of a Christians’ church. Mr. Yoo Byung-Eun is just another fellow brother who is granted certain authority inside of our church.
Anchor: So then why is that the church order has to collapse all because of trying to protect Mr. Yoo Byung-Eun? We heard from reports that people within the church also suggested Mr. Yoo should turn himself in if he has no fault. What is your standpoint in this conflict?
Lee: We also agree that we must receive judgment for whatever sin we committed. We are protecting Mr. Yoo right now because since 1991, when Mr. Yoo received a sentence alone, the entirety of the Salvation Sect was targeted and endured many hardships. Even now, there are many people that lost their means of living because of this situation. We used to be okay back in the days when Mr. Yoo was with us. We are not really separating Mr. Yoo from us, but now the entire population of the Salvation Sect is receiving unfair judgment. Many of us believe that the media and the prosecutors are targeting the entire Salvation Sect.
Anchor: Recently there was a final report of investigation of the Sewol. The report labels Mr. Yoo as a suspicious figure in this investigation. Wouldn’t the Salvation Sect by any chance advise Mr. Yoo to turn himself in and go through a thorough investigation?
Lee: Maybe there are those who think like that. However, the problem is that no one has been able to contact Mr. Yoo Byung-Eun, so advising him about such matters is very difficult. And also this whole situation seems to have been a set up from the start that aimed to frame Mr. Yoo and the Evangelical Baptist Church as a whole. If they want Mr. Yoo to turn himself in, they should've found the real cause of the Sewol tragedy instead of putting the blame on Mr. Yoo and the church. Even the President herself is now blaming Mr. Yoo instead of finding the truth behind the incident.
Anchor: Let me just confirm one last thing. You said you don't know where Mr. Yoo Byung-Eun is, but are you sure you are not hiding him?
Lee: Yes, the Salvation Sect is not hiding anyone as a fact. Also for those who have been arrested, I've never heard of them in my 30 years of working in the Evangelical Baptist Church. Those people have never helped Mr. Yoo hide or escape individually.
Anchor: Yes, that would be all. We will finish here today. Thank you very much.
Lee: Yes, thank you.