An international peace summit in Seoul, attended by former world leaders, is attracting attention because it is chaired by Lee Man-hee, the leader of a controversial Korean religious group.
Speakers at the World Alliance of Religions Peace Summit (WARP Summit), which opened Wednesday at the 63 Building in Yeouido, include Peruvian Vice President Marisol Espinoza Cruz, former Croatian President Stjepan Mesic and former South African President Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe, according to the official website.
The event has drawn protests because of the involvement of Lee, the leader of the Shinchonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ), which some describe as a cult.
Founded in 1984 by Lee, SCJ reportedly has over 120,000 followers. It came under scrutiny in 2007, when an investigative television report claimed that followers believe that Lee has eternal life.
The WARP Summit was organized by a group called Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), chaired by Lee; the International Women's Peace Group; the International Peace Youth Group and the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD).
No Cut News, however, reported that the Berlin-based ICD withdrew its involvement in the summit this week.
It has also been reported that young believers abandon schools, jobs and family to join the group. Shincheonji and its followers have claimed such reports are false.
No Cut News reported that protesters, including family members of the followers, gathered Tuesday outside Jamsil Olympic Stadium in southern Seoul, where an opening ceremony was being held.
According to HWPL, the summit aims to "discuss and share insights on how to achieve world peace" and to create "a platform for dialogue between community leaders on national, cultural, spiritual, and ethnic levels."