Seoul (CNN)A South Korean religious group at the center of a new coronavirus outbreak has been accused by the government of withholding key information and obstructing public health authorities in their fight against the pandemic.
South Korea's latest church-linked coronavirus outbreak is turning into a battle over religious freedom
As the scandal develops, many in the country would be forgiven for thinking "we've been here before."
In February, it was the Shincheonji religious group, thousands of whom were infected with the virus in the south eastern city of Daegu, setting the stage for an outbreak that raged throughout the country. The church was accused by officials of refusing to cooperate with the authorities, while members accused both the government and the press of defamation and religious persecution.
Now, history appears to be repeating itself with the Sarang-jeil Church in Seoul. It's the latest clash between a religious group and the government of President Moon Jae-in, who is attempting to stem South Korea's coronavirus outbreak while fighting off accusations he is curbing religious freedom.
South Korea reported 288 new cases of the virus on Thursday, the majority of which were in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi province. The outbreak has been linked to the Sarang-jeil Church, which has reported hundreds of positive cases among its members, some 400 of whom have yet to be traced by the authorities.
On Tuesday, Moon's government announced a ban on all religious gatherings in churches in Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan areas, in a move that provoked immediate pushback from conservative religious groups.
Since the latest outbreak began on August 12, more than 1,500 cases have been reported nationwide. South Korean Health Minister Park Neung-hoo has warned the current outbreak could be massive and may cause serious damage if not handled properly.
Police in the capital have been enlisted to help identify and tr