Dispatch has provided an update regarding some of the errors pointed out in this interview.
In an exclusive interview with Dispatch, DKZ‘s Kyoungyoon admitted he was involved with the JMS cult when he was younger due to his family ties with the church.
Dispatch conducted a series of interviews with both Kyoungyoon and his family. On March 8 and 10, they interviewed Kyoungyoon, while on March 9, they interviewed his parents. Dispatch noted that the purpose of their interview was to allow Kyoungyoon and his family to confess their ties to the controversial church, reflect on their past, and apologize—not just to explain what happened in the past.
When Dispatch straight-up asked Kyoungyoon which particular church he and his family were affiliated with, Kyoungyoon confirmed it was JMS’s Providence Church.
Yes. The Providence Church… That one.
I was a part of the church ever since I was in my mother’s womb. As a child, I went holding my mother’s hand.
I’m glad to know what the truth is, though it’s late. But I’m worried about my parents—my mother especially. She has been a follower of the church for over 20 years. I hope she will be able to overcome it.
Kyoungyoon’s mother attended a Presbyterian church in the past. But in 1994, she was introduced to JMS’s Providence Church. Kyoungyoon’s “aunt” came across JMS on her way to work, attended the cult church, then told Kyoungyoon’s mother about it, explaining that the church taught the Bible well.
I went where my mom went. When I was young, we would go to my aunt’s house. My family and some elders in the neighborhood would gather there to eat and talk, then we’d all go home. Weekends were usually like that.
This is the pastor aunt that was mentioned in a past interview. I heard she studied theology and became a pastor. At first, she evangelized from home. I remember she left our house around the time when I was in kindergarten and set up a church on the third floor of a small building.
Kyoungyoon’s aunt opened her own church in February 2020—attached to a cafe run by Kyoungyoon’s mother. There were suspicions raised online regarding the connection between his mother’s cafe and his aunt’s church. Kyoungyoon explained how he ended up joining the church as well as why he got out.
I heard about the sermons through a video. My aunt said that Jung Myung Seok (JMS) is the one who delivers the word of God. She said that JMS is a great man who read the Bible over 2000 times.
I, too, watched In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal. There was a part where he said, ‘I am the Messiah.’ When I saw that scene, I thought he was crazy. You might not believe me, but I didn’t realize it back then. It may seem pathetic but… that’s how it was.
I remember watching his videos. Before he comes forward as the Messiah, he would lay the bait… building it up for two to three hours. So when he finally claims to be the Messiah, the countless number of followers would roar in response. That’s how you get dragged into it. It’s kind of like getting gaslit.
I didn’t believe he was the Messiah. Even my aunt told me that he was someone good at delivering the words of God. But it’s true that I got brainwashed bit by bit. Eventually, I ended up thinking, ‘If we had to compare JMS to someone, wouldn’t it be Messiah?’
As Dispatch continued to inquire for more information about JMS’s brainwashing techniques, the conversation then shifted to how Kyoungyoon’s mother became firmly entrenched into the cult.
I don’t understand how the brainwashing worked on me, either. But if someone straight-up tells you, ‘I am the Messiah. If you do me sexual favors, I’ll send you to heaven,’ you wouldn’t believe that. Would you? JMS does not approach things this way. He feeds it to you, little by little.
For example, there were continuous stories about how amazing JMS is. There were testimonies and stories from various people around JMS. There was a person who even printed out a medical certificate and showed me, saying that he was told he needed surgery, but got better after JMS prayed for him. There were constant testimonies saying that JMS fixed their problems.
You might ask, ‘How could anyone believe that?’ But actually, I didn’t get to choose my own religion. My family already believed in it… So I didn’t have any other religions to compare it to. But I think my mom might have gotten more into it because of me. Something happened to me in elementary school.
When I was in second grade, my head swelled up. I couldn’t eat anything and would continuously vomit. Back then, a bunch of pastors—who were my aunt’s connections—came to see me and prayed for me. Three days after they came by, I went to get surgery and there was nothing wrong with me. My mother saw that as the work of God and started showing way more faith in JMS’s church after that… talking about how the stories [of healing] are real.
But I have to assume that it was a condition which time would have resolved. The timing happened to work out like that… And yet, it led to blind faith in the religion. It’s the same with COVID-19. You get better after a couple of days with medicine. It’s not God making you get better just because some pastor prays for you. Now that I think about it, it was so stupid.
Kyoungyoon and Dispatch then moved on to the topic of Wolmyeong-dong. Wolmyeong-dong housed the Providence Church’s “headquarter,” where JMS’s followers would travel to from near and far to experience what JMS had to offer. Kyoungyoon also talked about a picture he drew, which he previously showed off on a broadcast and drew suspicion from netizens.
I went to Wolmyeong-dong three or four times when I was in elementary school. My parents would take me there, saying that we should make good memories. I remember eating delicious food, swimming, playing soccer, volleyball, and basketball. Sexual exploitation? I had no idea that was happening. Those of us who came from the countryside to Wolmyeong-dong had no idea what happened.
I have seen JMS in Wolmyeong-dong. There was a basketball court. JMS would pray at the opposite end of the court, and then he would shoot the ball. All of his shots would make it into the basket. I thought ‘What is that? How is that possible? Wow, he really is something else.’
There would also be a dozen goalies in front of him, but he would still score a goal. In reality, the goalies were not really blocking JMS. But when I was young, I saw how he passed through all of them, and I got hooked. I remember telling my friends, ‘There is someone that amazing out there.’
There’s also a cliff on the way to Wolmyeong-dong. A stream flowed beneath the cliff. My mother once took me there to show it to me and wanted to show me something else. There was a tree on top of the cliff. It was a memorable scene. I even knew the name of the boulder there. The church would quiz people, asking if they knew the name.
Anyway, what I painted in the picture is actually a seagull, not an eagle. Of course, within the church, an eagle does have a symbolic meaning. There is a group shirt that has an eagle on it. But I’m already admitting [that I was a part of the Providence Church]. So what difference would it make for me to lie about what kind of a bird it was?
Dispatch then asked the hard-hitting question: Was Kyoungyoon ever personally active within the Providence Church?
There were various groups such as hip-hop, dance, band, and singing groups within the church. I really liked to sing. I wanted to get vocal training from someone who was good at singing. However, I wasn’t even able to think about it because of the financial difficulties my family had. That’s when I applied for the JMS singing club.
This was around when I was in ninth grade, when I applied for the singing club. When I passed, I received an invitation to a group chatroom via Naver Band. The chatroom was used to assign homework. In addition to hymns, there were also normal songs assigned for practice. It was almost as if I was taking singing lessons online.
I was active with the singing club during my ninth and tenth grade years. Once or twice a year, there would be in-person meetings. There were no actual performances. JMS seemed to have used teenagers and their interests to evangelize others or conduct missionary work. I didn’t question anything back then. I just thought they were people who taught music…
Kyoungyoon was born in Youngdeok, a small county in the North Gyeongsang Province on the east coast of Korea. He completed all of his schooling in Youngdeok. During his time as a trainee, he would travel between Seoul and his hometown. Up until his trainee period, he would attend his aunt’s church.
Dispatch questioned why Kyoungyoon would attend a JMS-affiliated church even though JMS was arrested in 2008 (when Kyoungyoon was 8) and released from prison in 2018 (when Kyoungyoon was 18). In response, Kyoungyoon explained how he never mentioned JMS to the public or his company.
Ever since I was young, I was taught that JMS was falsely accused of his crimes. They teach you a lot of reasons why he is actually innocent. They basically cram us to believe those reasons. So, eventually, we were all brainwashed into thinking , ‘Oh, JMS was persecuted just like Jesus was.’
The JMS I saw at Wolmyeong-dong did not appear like a sex offender. It was my mistake to judge him just by looking at him. I only followed what others said: To ‘not be swayed by the surrounding evils.’ I didn’t think he would be someone capable of such things. I am so ashamed of myself.
When I was young, I was bullied for believing in a pseudo-religion. I became a defensive person without even realizing it. So when someone asked about my religion, I said I was Christian. We all believed in God anyway. I have never mentioned JMS to my agency, members, or anyone else.
I swear, I have never attempted to preach my beliefs while promoting as an idol. The closest people to me are the members and our fans. And I have never mentioned JMS to any of them before, not even once. If I did, I would have no justification to stay as part of DKZ. I wouldn’t be able to face the fans.
Following this, Dispatch asked why Kyoungyoon never just left the church. While Kyoungyoon explained his decisions leading up to this point, he ended his interview with Dispatch by making one thing clear: He will no longer be associated with JMS.
In our Youngdeok church, there are less than 10 members. They are all like family to me. The JMS believers that I met were also good people. They went to good schools, had good jobs, and said nice things. They weren’t the weirdos like the people shown in the show In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal.
And I feel like they might all be asking the same thing. ‘We have such deep faith in God, so what is the problem?’ Having faith is not a sin… It’s JMS and those who contributed to his crimes using God’s name who should be punished. They are the perpetrators.
I saw comments telling me to leave DKZ and go back to JMS. It’s not that I don’t understand how people feel about me when they’re blaming me this way. But I wish everyone would try to help the other JMS believers to wake up and get out. It’s a shameless request, but I would appreciate it if you gave us a chance.
Why couldn’t I walk away from the church back then? When I came to my senses, I realized that [JMS’s] teachings were no different than from what other pseudo-religions preach. But when JMS said he was the Messiah, I would convince myself that he was only comparing himself to the Messiah. It was sheer cowardice.
When the controversy first broke out, I got extremely scared. I tried to justify myself, saying that I ‘didn’t know.’ Did I really not know? I didn’t want my faith to be considered unrighteous so I turned a blind eye to things. I covered my ears and eyes. But now, I feel terrible about the victims’ pains.
Is it a good thing that I am not all that popular of an idol right now? Maybe if I was more famous, then I could have been used as a missionary for JMS, too. It’s all awful. So… This is all too late, but I am severing ties with the church now.
There is no more JMS.
Remember, Kyoungyoon wasn’t the only person Dispatch interviewed. They also interviewed his parents. His mother did most of the responding, with his father chiming in just once. She explained how she got into JMS in the first place.
I used to attend a Presbyterian church, but their interpretations of the Bible just didn’t have an impact on me. Life was frustrating. Then, my younger sister shared some of JMS’s doctrine with me. It seemed like the Providence Church had the answers to the questions that my previous church was unable to provide.
I heard stories about the show In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal from people around me. However, I believed in JMS for over 20 years. I lived my life drunk on his sermons. I was afraid that everything I had believed in would come crashing down on me. So, no. I haven’t watched the documentary yet.
— Kyoungyoon’s mother
Based on this response, Dispatch’s next question was to ask Kyoungyoon’s parents whether they are still part of JMS’s church or not.
Kyoungyoon called us crying. He said we were all tricked. Honestly, I’m still confused. But one thing is clear. No religion comes before my child. My son is my first priority. I can do anything for him.
— Kyoungyoon’s mother
What’s so important about religion? Leaving the church is no problem, I can do more than that. In the future, I won’t even break out any faith that can be tied to a church. I won’t go anywhere religious in any way. Please believe me.
— Kyoungyoon’s father
The topic then shifted to Kyoungyoon’s mother’s cafe, which was suspected of attempting to spread JMS ideology to its visitors due to its connection with the church.
In 2020, my younger sister founded a new church. JMS’s foundation assisted with that. My cafe and her church are located in the same building, but the entrances are different. It is also not true that there is a door to the church from inside the cafe. They are not connected at all.
The deficit from running our orchards was getting too high. So I opened the cafe to earn a living. We pay ₩200,000 KRW (about $151 USD) a month in rent. The sign was also handmade. It is true that we tried to imitate JMS’s handwriting for the signage. All of the interior decorations for the cafe, we decorated ourselves. That’s how we started doing business with just three tables.
Did the cafe play JMS hymns? Well, once or twice a week, DKZ fans would visit us. It made me think about how popular my child was becoming. And I was very thankful. But preaching to those people? That would’ve been absurd. It’s not true. I have never played hymns at the cafe. I wonder why decent people have to tell such lies.
— Kyoungyoon’s mother
The last topic was about the family, mainly the family dog and Kyoungyoon’s aunt (his mother’s younger sister). In conclusion, Kyoungyoon’s mother shared one powerful comment.
There are too many rumors being spread now. Kyoungyoon’s dog was an abandoned dog, not related to JMS at all. Its name (of Guwon meaning “salvation”) was given because it was saved from the road. Haengbok meaning “happiness” was given because it should live a good life. I hope no other speculations will come from the names.
My sister attended the church’s seminary and ended up becoming a pastor after taking the courses to become one. Sexual favors? That’s ridiculous. There are less than 10 followers here in Youngdeok. My family and some elderly neighbors. That’s it. Something like that can’t happen in a rural town.
I’m too ashamed to face my son. None of this is his fault. It’s because he came from the wrong parents. And I am so sorry about that. If he didn’t come from a mother like me, he wouldn’t have had to go through any of this. I hope Kyoungyoon can return to his normal life as soon as possible. I’m sorry.
— Kyoungyoon’s mother