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Asian cult leader arrested

CHINESE police have captured Jung Myung-seok, the founder of one of Asia's most notorious cults, the Jesus Morning Star movement.

And in a rare example of north Asian collaboration, it appears authorities in China, Japan and South Korea are discussing where he will face a long list of charges.

South Korean-born Jung, 61, was a member of the Unification Church led by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon - the "Moonies" - in the 1970s, before establishing his own group.

The cult's name came from a biblical reference - Revelations 2:24-29, in which Jesus promises believers: "He shall rule them with a rod of iron - and I will give him the morning star."

The group - which claims 150,000 followers in Korea - also established itself in Japan in the late 1980s. It typically recruits students on campuses in both countries and through sports clubs. Followers call Jung president, teacher or lord.

Toyoshige Aizawa, a clergyman who specialises in persuading young people to leave cults, told Japan Times: "Jung has twisted the biblical story of Adam and Eve to focus on sex, saying, 'To atone for Adam and Eve's original sin, which was visited upon all mankind, it's necessary to engage in intercourse with the Lord'. Only in this case, he means himself - since he claims to be a reincarnation of Jesus."

Jung, wanted by Korean police for rape, fraud and embezzlement, escaped South Korea in 1999 and was later placed on the Interpol wanted list. He next surfaced in Hong Kong in 2003, where he was charged with being an illegal immigrant, granted bail and fled again - apparently to China.

He was caught by police in Anshan, in Liaoning, the Chinese province that borders North Korea. It is believed he has also, while on the run, lived in Italy and Taiwan.

He is alleged to have stayed at supporters' homes where he summoned up to 10 young female adherents every day, and indecently assaulted them under the pretext of "health checks".

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