Last week, the parents of DKZ member Kyoungyoon were linked to the JMS cult, which has come into focus recently thanks to the Netflix documentary In The Name Of God: A Holy Betrayal. They responded at the time that the parents were ignorant of the church being a cult and that they immediately left upon finding out, but there was plenty of reason to be skeptical of that.
Following that reveal, a bunch more evidence was released, speculating that Kyoungyoon and his parents were more involved than they were admitting. The rumors were that his parents’ cafe was on JMS owned property, his aunt was a pastor in an affiliated church, and that Kyoungyoon had direct connections himself due to one of his paintings and JMS branded clothes.
This has been a major issue online in Korea recently, something obviously beyond the usual K-pop drama circles. With suspicions constantly growing, Kyoungyoon and his family have now admitted to being in the cult in an interview with Dispatch.
To get the important stuff out of the way, Kyoungyoon talks about being in the JMS cult.
Yes. JMS. That one.
I was a part of the church ever since I was in my mother’s womb. As a child, I went holding my mother’s hand.
I’m glad to know what the truth is, though it’s late. But I’m worried about my parents — my mother especially. She has been a follower of the church for over 20 years. I hope she will be able to overcome it.
As far as his own direct involvement with the cult, he states how he got involved in the JMS singing club.
There were various groups such as hip-hop, dance, brass, and singing within JMS. I really liked to sing. I wanted to get vocal training from someone who was good at singing. However, I wasn’t even able to think about it because of the difficulties my family had. That’s when I applied for the JMS singing club.
This was around when I was in ninth grade, when I applied for the singing club. When I passed, I was invited to the band through Naver. The band had homework. In addition to hymns, there were also normal songs assigned as homework. It was almost as if it was a class that was being conducted online.
I was active with the singing club during my ninth and tenth grade years. Once or twice a year, there would be in-person meetings. There were no actual performances. JMS seems to have used teenagers and their interests to evangelize others or conduct missionary work. I didn’t question it back then. I just thought they were people who taught music…
Kyoungyoon says he never tried to propagate the cult, and explained that his aunt got him and his parents into the cult. Up until he was a trainee, he attended his aunt’s church.
When asked why he would attend such a church given the reporting on JMS’s crimes, he explained they told the members he was falsely accused of the crimes. When asked why he never tried to leave, he explained that it was a tight-knit small group that was like family and they were otherwise normal people.
Since I was young, I learned that Jung Myung Seok was falsely accused of his crimes. They teach a lot of reasons why he is actually innocent. It was almost like cramming them into us. With that, it’s like we were all brainwashed into thinking “Oh, well Jung Myung Seok was persecuted just like Jesus was.”
Kyoungyoon’s parents also said the cafe wasn’t for use by the church, and they opened it to make a living, denying that they preached to customers.
While opening up about his involvement, Kyoungyoon gave some insight into their tactics and how one can get sucked into cults.
I remember watching his video. Before he said he was Messiah, he would lay the bait, foreshadowing it for 2-3 hours. Then, when he finally said it, the countless number of followers would roar in response. That’s how you get dragged into it. It’s a kind of gaslighting.
I didn’t believe he was Messiah. My aunt said that he was the person who was the best at delivering the words of God. But it’s true that I was being brainwashed bit by bit. I had thoughts such as “if I compare Jung Myung Seok to someone, wouldn’t it be Messiah?”
I don’t understand the brainwashing either. But if someone just straight-up tells you “I am the Messiah. If you give me sexual favors, you’ll go to heaven,” who would believe them? JMS does not approach things this way. They feed it to you, little by little.
For example, there were continuous stories about how amazing Jung Myung Seok is. There were testimonies and stories from various people around him. There was a person who even printed out a medical certificate and showed me, saying that he was told he needed surgery, but got better after Jung Myung Seok prayed for him. There were constant testimonies saying that he fixed their problems.
How could you believe that? Well actually, I didn’t have the right to choose my own religion. It’s just that my family believed in it… I didn’t have anything to compare it to. But I think my mother got even more into it because of me. When I was in elementary school, after that event…
When I was in second grade, my head just swelled up. I couldn’t eat anything and would continuously vomit. At that time, a pastor who was my aunt’s acquaintance came from faraway, and prayed for me, then left. Three days after that, I went to get surgery and there was nothing wrong with me. My mother seemed to have believed in the church even more after that, saying that the stories [of healing] are real.
But wasn’t it an illness that simply time would take care of? It was just the right timing … and yet that led to blind faith in the religion. Even if you catch COVID, you’ll feel better after 3-4 days with medicine. God didn’t make me feel better just because a pastor prayed for me. Now that I think about it, it was so stupid.
He also talked about the church retreat that people speculated that was a part of his drawing, explaining that he went there three or four times during elementary school and it was described as an important place. He described it like a vacation, and gave examples of the propaganda techniques JMS used.
I have seen Jung Myung Seok in Wolmyeong-dong. There was a basketball hoop and Jung Myung Seok was praying towards the court in opposite direction, but then he would then shoot the ball and all of his shots would go in the basket. I thought “What was that? Is that possible? Wow this is seriously crazy.”
There would also be 10 or more goalies in front of him, but he would score a goal. To be honest, it’s all about the impact. When I was young, I saw that and I got hooked. I remember telling my parents “Wow, there is a person like that in the world?”
Kyoungyoon’s mother stated that she got into the cult because the Presbyterian church she was a part of didn’t have an impact on her, but her sister proposed an alternative and presumably the tactics mentioned above were exactly what she was looking for from religion.
In the end, both Kyoungyoon and his parents make it clear that there will be no more JMS involvement.
When the controversy first broke out, I was suddenly very scared. I gave myself excuses, saying that I was ignorant. Did I really not know? I didn’t want my faith to be considered unrighteous so I turned a blind eye to things. I covered my ears and eyes. I’m sorry to see the victims’ pains.
Is it a relief that I am not a famous idol right now? Otherwise, if I was more famous, maybe I would have been used as a missionary for JMS too. It was awful. It’s late, but I am severing ties with the church now. No more JMS.
While his mother was a bit more hesitant in her reasoning, his father just swore to give up religion altogether.
“Kyoungyoon called us crying. He said we were all tricked. Honestly, I’m still confused. But one thing is clear. No religion comes before my child. My son is my first priority. I can do anything for him.”
“I’m too ashamed to face my son. It is not his fault. It’s because he met the wrong parents. I am so sorry about that. If you didn’t meet a mother like me, you wouldn’t have to go through all of this. I hope Kyoungyoon can return to his normal life as soon as possible. I’m sorry.”
“What’s so important about religion? Leaving the church is no problem, I can do more than that. In the future, I won’t even break out any faith that can be tied to a church. I won’t go anywhere religious in any way. Please believe me.”
As for what Kyoungyoon’s plans are, he wants another chance and for people to focus on the victims of JMS.
“I saw comments saying that I should leave DKZ and go back to Jung Myung Seok. It’s not that I don’t know how the people who are blaming me feel. But can’t you try to help the people who are believing in JMS try to get out faster instead? It’s a shameless request, but I would appreciate it if you gave us a chance.”
Yeah, all of this is a lot to process.
I feel like this is something that will require nuance, and it’s not something a lot of people are going to afford them, which I sort of understand given the crimes of the cult.
Based on what we know at the moment, Kyoungyoon seems to be a victim of the cult himself as he was effectively born into it. Furthermore, I do agree with him that instead of virulently attacking cult members, the better solution is to help get others out, and exit counseling is the opposite of confrontational call-outs. Many cult members are effectively victims themselves, even if it doesn’t excuse them for propagating it to others.
That said, I do understand why people might be skeptical of all this as well. It seems like a safe bet that all of this was organized partially because netizens were finding more and more evidence and Dispatch was about to expose him and his family anyway. Thus, it’s not unreasonable that fans would be uncomfortable about supporting somebody who might be still involved with the cult or even have parents who are a part of it that could be controlling his actions/finances, especially as an idol that already by definition covets uncomfortable parasocial relationships with fans. Also, from what I’ve read it seems highly unlikely that people involved in cults will be able to just cut ties so simply, so their sudden change of heart is likely just PR tactics on some level.
Basically, it’s hard to judge the situation in full right now as this is more of a long-term thing to monitor, especially if further details get exposed. Regardless, it’s hard to see him remaining with DKZ after this given the understandable questions fans may have about him, but I do hope for a surprise and that he’s given a chance to prove himself. Really, I just hope the best for him and his family in terms of actually being able to escape the influence of JMS, and that they’re not just saying it now that Kyoungyoon’s career is on the line.