Give and take, and take some more?
'Tis certainly the season for giving- but not to some charity groups that simply demand a fat lump of coal.
Between the peace group that's actually a brainwashing cult, the megachurch that celebrates the Prince of Peace and Son of Many by funneling money into its ministers' pockets, and the charity trust whose leaders keep ending up in front of the courts, it can get tricky finding a safe place to donate.
But we're here to help you put your time, money and effort into worthy causes this holiday season. We've already suggested some donation-worthy groups, and we'll also give you our two cents on those to avoid. Here are a few hucksters, shysters and holy rollers that would make it to the top of Santa's naughty list.
Mannam had long been known for roping foreigners into weird events where they get their pictures taken all the time. Between the free cooking lessons, Korean classes and giant fundraisers, however, the group, also known as the Mannam International Youth Coalition and International Peace Youth Group, apparently neglected to inform participants that it was also a front for the Shinchonji Church of Jesus. The religious group, which is a known cult in Korea, has the same president as Mannam, a fact revealed by foreign media and local bloggers last year.
According to a 2012 report by Yonhap News, when Mannam held a fundraiser for the Al Noor AIDS orphan age in South Africa, none of the money actually arrived at the charity. It wasn’t until after Yonhap interviewed the orphanage and then confronted Mannam that about $1,000 showed up, five months after the April 2012 event. Cult-buster Peter Daley has worked extensively on this story.
2. International WeLoveU Foundation
If you’ve never been accosted on the street in Korea by someone asking, “Do you know the Heavenly Mother?” consider yourself lucky. If you’d like to keep it that way, steer clear of the International WeLoveU Foundation. Zahng Gil-jah, who claims to be the Wife of God herself, is chair of both WeLoveU and The World Mission Society Church of God, but you won’t find that on the church’s Wikipedia page or the WeLoveU Foundation’s website (www.weloveu.or.kr)
The World Mission Society Church of God is like a religion the same way that nuclear fallout is like a spring breeze, at least based on the testimonies of people who have left it. According to U.S.-based cult expert Steven Hassan and www.examiningthewmscog.com, which is devoted entirely to digging up dirt on the cult, tactics such as sleep deprivation, information control, thought control and threats of Satanic retribution against church dissidents are all part and parcel of the World Mission Society Church of God.
3. Full Gospel World Mission
The Full Gospel World Mission megachurch in Yeouido is not a cult, but it’s having problems that have nothing to do with seating parishioners at the world’s biggest church. Apparently believing in serving God without serving the taxman is David Yonggi Cho, leader of Full Gospel World Mission.
As reported in The Hankyoreh just last month, Cho stands accused by church elders of embezzling 500 billion won in church money. Yes, you read that correctly- half a trillion won in church money, loot worth more than the annual GDP of Tonga. Mission has also faced charges of breach of trust since March this year. Cho’s son is already learning the ins and outs of prison ministry after he was charged with assisting his father with breach of trust and evading about 6 billion won in taxes.
4. Community Chest of Korea
This year dozens of Korean businesspeople were busted for stashing money overseas in an attempt to keep their taxes low. One of them, The Korea Herald reported in August, was Lee Dong-kurn, chairman of Bubang Group and the Community Chest of Korea, the nation’s largest charity group. In a probe into the Bubang subsidiary Korea Ship Finance Co., tax officials found evidence of Lee’s tax evasion, and have also looked into allegations that his son set up a paper company in the Virgin Islands.
Though the probe was into Lee’s ship fund management firm, Koreans are wary of the charity leader’s money mishandlings after embezzlement, falsifying expenditures and other misdeeds almost caused the group to collapse in 2010. According to auditors and Yonhap News, 3 million won in donated gift certificates went missing from an Incheon office, 33 million won was used for personal expenses at a Gyeonggi Province office, 90 million won in interior renovations were contracted to a CCK relative, and an undisclosed amount went to a celebrity campaigner who was paid to do nothing. The fallout of the scandal, The Korea Times reported, caused charitable donations nationwide to plummet that year.
So this holiday season, spend your time and money on an organization that isn’t involved in embezzlement, fraud, mind control or other coal-worthy crimes. Santa will appreciate it. He may even reward you with your own lump of gold.
Groove Korea website