What is the JMS Cult? Does the Church Still Exist in Korea?

Through Netflix’s ‘In the Name of God,’ we are told stories of some of the most widespread religious groups in South Korea whose leaders lived a life much different than their perceived public image. One of the groups discussed in the documentary series is the JMS Church, known by many names and founded by Jeong Myeong-Seok. Due to the actions of its founders, the groups became infamous and gained the attention of people across the world. If you are curious about just what JMS is and if it is still in operation, we have you covered!

The JMS Cult’s Origins and Beliefs

Officially known as the Christian Gospel Mission, the JMS Church stands for Jesus Morning Star Church and was established in 1980 by Jeong Myeong-Seok. Apart from the mentioned terms, the group is known by many other names, including Providence, the Morning Star Church(MS Church), the Bright Moon Church, and Setsuri. Initially a part of the Unification Church, Myeong-Seok decided to make his own religious group affiliated with the Methodist Church.

Initially known as the Ae-Chun Church, the group’s core teaching include the idea that Myeong-Seok is the second coming of Jesus. In many of his speeches, the religious leader has also called himself God. These particular teachings did not seem to sit well with the Methodist Church, which expelled JMS from under its umbrella in the mid-80s, and the name of the group was changed to International Christian Association(ICA). Following an alleged power struggle in 1986 regarding the sexual scandals that became associated with the community, Myeong-Seok apparently consolidated all power and renamed the group to its current official name.

Having started in Seoul, South Korea, the group was majorly formed of college-going students and other youngsters who apparently adored the idea of a religious group that attempted to explain the Bible through scientific terms. According to Myeong-Seok, even in the story of Adam and Eve, the forbidden fruit was a metaphor alluding to the fact that the latter had slept with the Devil. He went on to share a set of rules called 30 Lessons which must be followed to live a good life.

Myeong-Seok was also known for his predictions, which would apparently end up being accurate. Prior to the 1984 South Korean Presidential results, the leader allegedly shared just what rankings each candidate would have and who would win the public vote. His results ended up being accurate and added to his fame. However, in contrast to his own teachings regarding chastity, Myeong-Seok would often have physical relationships with women and proclaimed that it was not a sin since he was the “Perfect Adam” and what he was doing was God’s will.

Many of the women that Myeong-Seok became intimate with were allegedly forced to do so and had no idea just what they had signed up for. These women were called “God’s Brides,” as the man claimed that his physical activities were done in the name of the divine and that he was curing these women of ailments. Pertaining to his harassment of multiple women over the years, Myeong-Seok ended up being convicted of 10 years of imprisonment in April 2009 and was released on February 18, 2018.

JMS Church Continues Operations in South Korea

Despite their President being convicted as a criminal, the JMS Church continued its operations. After Myeong-Seok’s release, his followers were overjoyed by his newfound freedom and celebrated with much pomp and joy. Despite his decade in prison, Myeong-Seok apparently did not stop assaulting his female followers. Majorly in part to the story shared by Maple Yip, an ex-JMS member, Myeong-Seok was once again arrested in October 2022 and, as of writing, awaits trials.

Based in Wolmyeongdong, South Korea, the JMS Church is still in operation in South Korea. The religious group continues to spread its message among the public and has a large number of followers who are loyal to Myeong-Seok and continue to believe in his innocence and divinity. Whether or not this will continue should the group’s leader be convicted once more remains to be seen. However, given that many of his followers apparently even believe his first imprisonment to be unfair, it is possible that Myeong-Seok will remain beloved by many in the future.

Due to its methods of operation, many have labeled JMS as a cult with a history of sexual oppression. While the Netflix documentary sheds a good job of bringing JMS to the public’s attention, it is unsure just how many of the current JMS members will agree with the view of the rest of the world and their own country’s judicial system.

Read More: Kim Do-Hyeong: Where is Anti-JMS Activist Now?