The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Tuesday urged Protestant churches in South Korea to halt gatherings as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.
Culture Minister Park Yang-woo on Tuesday visited the central office of the United Christian Churches of Korea in Jongno, central Seoul, to ask the organization’s head, Kim Tae-young, for active cooperation.
He emphasized that now was a crucial moment in the effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Park also expressed gratitude toward many Korean churches that are following the government’s recommendation and have already canceled services, holding them online instead.
The government added that other religious groups like Catholic churches and Buddhist groups had decided to cancel their gatherings.
This is not the first time that Park has asked religious groups, including Protestant churches, to suspend their gatherings.
Park on Friday announced an official statement urging them to refrain from any religious services and gatherings.
Yeouido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, the biggest Christian church in South Korea with more than 560,000 followers, decided the same day to stop holding gatherings.
The virus has already spread through a number of Protestant churches here. As of today, a total of 31 confirmed patients are members of Onchun Church in Busan.
“We found out about our first confirmed patient on Feb. 21. Since Feb. 22 we have shut down all facilities,” Ohchun Church official said in a statement. The church also added it was actively cooperating with the government to overcome the situation.
Seven members of Saengmyeongsaem Church in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, have also been confirmed as COVID-19 patients, as of Wednesday morning. The outbreak there is thought to trace back to a follower who participated in the Sunday service and elementary school-age Sunday service on Feb. 23. According to sources, around 140 people participated in the Sunday service and 20 elementary school students participated in their Sunday service.
Regarding rumors about the church in Suwon being related to Shincheonji, the church said in its official statement “Saengmyeongsaem Church is also a victim of Shincheonji. We are not related to Shincheonji at all.” The person thought to have spread the virus at Saengmyeongsaem Church was infected during a lecture taught by a person who was infected at Shincheonji church in Daegu.
Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-yong on Tuesday said that everyone related to Saengmyeongsaem Church would be tested for the new coronavirus.
Yangrim Chuch in Gwangju on Tuesday confirmed three infected patients. This church has around 500 followers, according to the Gwangju government. Two of the infected patients participated in the church’s Sunday service on March 1.
By Song Seung-hyun (email@example.com