Ruling Says, “Wife’s Claim That Mr. L Committed Suicide After Calling the Church’s Sexual Assault Case Into Question Is True”
The First Civil Division of the Seoul Northern District Court (Presiding Judge Choi Bok-Gyu) ruled on March 17 that the “Modern Religion” Magazine (Publisher: Tak Ji-won) should rectify its earlier report that the reason Mr. L (46)—a member of the Y Church (located in Song-pa-gu; the General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Korea)—committed suicide at the beginning of the year was because of his wife and her church. Citing the corrected statement, the Court said Mr. L ended up committing suicide after suffering from remorse about being unable to help the woman who was a victim of sexual abuse that occurred at the Heresy Counseling Center of the Y Church.
Mr. L was found dead at his mother’s house in Uijeongbu City, Gyeonggi Province, on February 21. He left behind no suicide note, but the Y Church started insisting that he committed suicide because of his wife’s religion. Even before the police determined the exact cause behind his suicide, Deacon K from the Y Church, a Hapimo member, appeared at his funeral and spoke loudly that his death was due to religion. It turned out that Deacon K and some other people even manipulated the media by providing a report to the religious press. Based on their report alone, some Christian media outlets released biased reports that “Mr. L’s death was due to his wife (Mrs. A) and her religion.” One of those media outlets is the “Modern Religion” Magazine.
The Modern Religion used some provocative headlines such as: “A Dad Who Chose to Die After Losing His Family to a Cult,” “My Daughter-in-Law Laughed in Front of My Son’s Dead Body,” etc. After an interview with an official from the Y Church and Mr. L’s mother who usually didn’t like her daughter-in-law (Mrs. A), the Modern Religion released an article purporting that Mrs. A drove her husband to suicide because of her religion.
However, Mr. L’s remaining possessions were saying something totally different. Mrs. A confirmed through the records of Mr. L’s conversations with Deacon K on his cell phone that when Mr. L heard about the sexual assault that had happened in the Y Church, he tried to bring it up, which eventually drove him to death. The victim told Mr. L she was sexually abused by a man from the Y Church and asked him for help, but he wasn’t able to help her. He felt very sorry and distressed about the situation, and asked Deacon K to help him out. However, Deacon K persuaded Mr. L to cover up the crime by telling him to stop talking about the sexual abuse. It seems that Deacon K thus tried to conciliate Mr. L in an attempt to sweep the incident under the rug.
According to Mr. L’s mobile phone records and text messages, it turns out that he felt distressed as the church attempted to stop him from helping the sexual abuse victim and this worsened his mental instability. In a recorded message he left on his cell phone shortly before his death, he pleaded earnestly, “Please help me! Please help me!” It seems that he committed suicide shortly after recording the message.
Mrs. A discovered the cause of her husband’s death through some of his remaining possessions, and started a protest in front of the Y Church on March 13, asking the church officials to uncover the truth about her husband’s death. She also filed lawsuits against some Christian media outlets for creating an intentionally biased news report on her husband’s death without investigating the facts, based only on the information from Deacon K. He was responsible for driving her husband to suicide, but he shifted the blame to her, her children and her religion as well, so he could ignore the wrongdoings of his church and hide the truth.
The Court ruled that their previous report must be rectified. After this ruling, many people point out that religious media outlets have lost the function of the internal criticism and also criticize that they’ve attempted to wipe away their wrong doings by shifting the blame to a certain church.
During the course of the trial, the Modern Religion claimed that the following statements—“Mrs. A never asked Mr. L for a divorce nor excluded him out of anything, and she didn’t laugh at his funeral”—rectified according to Mrs A’s request, were obviously false. However, the Justice Department ruled that the statements are true. Modern Religion also claimed that the Y Church and Hapimo members were defamed by these corrected statements that say, “The sexual abuse case at the Y Church drove him to death,” and, “Mr. L asked Mrs. A for a divorce after he joined the Hapimo Internet Café.” The Justice Department rejected this claim as well.
The Modern Religion claimed that they secured Mrs. A’s right of reply by citing the statements from her interview with the NewsHankuk in the news article. However, the Justice Department said, “The statements are not enough to reflect Mrs. A’s rebuttal.” The Justice Department added, “There’s no material proof that the statements from Mrs. A’s interview with the NewsHankuk are inconsistent with the facts. So, the statements can hardly be deemed illegal and defamatory about the Y Church and the alleged victim.” In an interview with the NewsHankuk, Mrs. A said, “While sorting through my husband’s belongings, I found out that when he heard about the sexual assault which had happened inside the Y Church, he tried to bring up the incident and it finally drove him to suicide.”
Below is a summary of the key points from the corrected statements that the Court ordered the Modern Religion to print in their magazine.
– The late Mr. Lee suffered feelings of guilt and remorse about being unable to help the person who he thought was the victim of sexual abuse that had happened at the Heresy Counseling Center of the Y Church, and he ended up committing suicide because of that.
– The wife of the late Mr. Lee never asked him for a divorce by labeling him insane or abnormal. On the contrary, he asked his wife for a divorce after having been instigated by the members of the Internet café that he joined around 2014.
– The wife and children of the late Mr. Lee never excluded him out of anything or treated him coldly. They had a pleasant time with him eating and taking pictures together during the Lunar New Year holidays, too.
– The wife and children of the late Mr. Lee never laughed at the funeral as reported in the press. His wife didn’t choose her church over her husband, nor did she ever covet his money. Moreover, she never refused to release his dead body in order to find his bag.