South Korea's latest church-linked coronavirus outbreak is turning into a battle over religious freedom

A demonstrator dressed as Jesus marches to the Presidential office during a rally against the government on August 15, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.

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.

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.
      Members of conservative christian groups wave flags and shout slogans during an anti-government rally in the central Gwanghwamun area of Seoul on August 15, 2020.

      New outbreak

      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 track individuals connected to the church, with the government acutely aware that time is of the essence to contain the spread and enable contact tracing. Health officials are asking all of the congregation who attended services between July 27 and August 13 to be tested and self-quarantine.
        A lawyer of the Sarang-jeil Church holds a press conference in Seoul on August 17, 2020.
        Seoul's government said it would seek damages against Sarang-jeil Church and its pastor, Jun Kwang-hoon, for wasting administrative resources and money through their non-compliance. He's already facing criminal charges for allegedly violating quarantine and obstructing contact tracing.
        Jun's legal team has rejected claims the church obstructed contact tracing by concealing a list of its members.
        Lawyer Kang Yeon-jae told reporters on Monday that "unl