The founder and leader of Shincheonji religious group, which is at the center of the rapid rise in South Korean coronavirus cases, apologized "sincerely" to the country today at his first news conference since the nation's outbreak.
The group has faced mounting criticism after more than half of South Korea's positive cases was linked to the group.
At a press conference at one of Shincheonji's facilities, called Peace Palace, in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, Lee Man-hee took a deep bow on his knees after issuing an apology to the public.
"It is not intentional but I’m deeply sorry that many of our members have been infected,” and the group “is trying its best to fully cooperate with the authorities,” Lee said.
“I apologize sincerely to the public for the outbreak related to the 31st confirmed case,” he added.
Last night, Seoul City filed a legal complaint against Lee and the group’s twelve regional leaders for charges including homicide.
While he did not mention the Seoul City complaint today, the 88-year-old said that the group's leaders “are like parents for the members and what kind of parents would just wait and watch children dying?"
He denied accusations that he and his group have been hampering the health authorities’ efforts to contain and prevent infections, adding that “this is not the time to scrutinize who’s done right and who’s done wrong. This is the time for everyone to do one’s best for the people to resolve the situation.”
When asked if he has kept to the self-quarantine, he said that he was a busy person and has not been able to stay in one place.
Korean health authorities are reviewing whether Lee’s presser is a violation of quarantine act.
South Korea has the most diagnosed cases of the virus — more than 4,200 cases and 26 deaths — outside of mainland China.
As of Monday, at least 57% of total confirmed cases in South Korea are related to Shincheonji, according to the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).