Chun Ki-won: Hero pastor jailed for sexually abusing North Korea teenage escapees

A South Korean pastor once hailed as a hero for smuggling out hundreds of North Koreans has been jailed for sexually abusing teenage defectors.

Chun Ki-won, 67, has been sentenced to five years for molesting minors at his boarding school in Seoul.

The pastor had been viewed as a saviour figure for decades with people calling him an “Asian Schindler” and his operations an “Underground Railroad” for those fleeing the North’s regime.

He was arrested in Seoul in September.

Police accused him of molesting six North Korean teenagers, including defectors sleeping in the dormitories of the alternative school he had founded at his Durihana mission.

Chun had denied the charges but a court on Wednesday ruled the victims’ evidence as irrefutable.

“The victims are making consistent statements and it includes content that cannot be stated without first-hand experience of the circumstances”, Judge Seung-jeong Kim of the Seoul Central District Court said.

The judge added that Chun had committed his crimes from “a position where he had absolute influence”.

He was found guilty in five of six cases of abuse against the minors – some of whom had escaped alone and others with their families under the guidance of Chun’s mission.

Chun founded Durihana, one of South Korea’s most prominent NGOs that helps North Koreans flee through routes in China.

He claims to have helped more than 1,000 North Koreans escape the hardline regime of the Kim family over the past 25 years and has personally been condemned by Pyongyang for his work.

In 2002, he made headlines after being imprisoned in China for seven months during an escape mission.

His work – which included the establishment of an alternative school for children of North Korean defectors – was widely covered, the subject of documentaries and news articles including by the BBC, CNN, The New York Times and National Geographic.

Media reports often compared him to Oskar Schindler, a businessman who rescued more than 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust.

His arrest and conviction has shocked South Korea – where his trial was widely reported this week.

TV bulletins showed the grey-haired Chun in a white outfit being brought to court in handcuffs and flanked by guards.

Source: BBC

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