Cult watcher Peter Daley speaks at Seoul Book and Culture Club, Saturday
Korea has a bizarrely high number of self-proclaimed messiahs, and they may use sophisticated deception and persuasion techniques to rope you in.
Cult watcher Peter Daley lectured on cults at the Seoul Book and Culture Club, Saturday. After, he gave The Korea Times five tips on avoiding cults.
1. Street approach
Rather than knocking on your door, cults here prefer doing their recruiting in public.
“An obvious first introduction is a street approach,” said Daley, which may involve a survey, donation request, event invitation or something simpler like asking for directions.
He cautions that cults may try to find where you work or live so they can hit you closer to home. Foreigners living in small towns are especially easy targets.
Some cults hide behind front groups rather than reveal their true nature, knowing that it would scare most new recruits away. They may pose as Bible studies groups or offer volunteer or recreational clubs or events.
“I have spoken to former members of some cults who were not informed of the name of the church or its leader until well after a year of Bible studies,” said Daley.
3. Exceptional interest in you
Cults have exceptional financial and human resources to levy against you. “Love bombing” is a persuasion technique that relies on forced affection.
“Friendships formed at the onset may appear wonderful at the beginning but are entirely conditional upon further attendance, and hence not true friendships at all,” said Daley. “The relationship was instigated under orders from above.”
Cult-run events have nonstop photo ops, and you may find yourself always on camera, even if surrounded by more senior members. This puts you on the spot, but there might be another reason.
4. Not necessarily trying to convert you
Many are fooled by recruiters who don’t proselytize. But cults need more than worshippers, especially among foreigners.
“Individuals do not necessarily need to be indoctrinated into a cult in order to be of use to it,” said Daley. “Those with no knowledge of the cultic connections can speak sincerely and honestly ― and from a position of total ignorance ― about the group.”
Some cults use secular fronts to lure in foreigners, who are little more than seat fillers. Footage of foreigners at cult-run events makes internal propaganda that the leader’s message is spreading globally. Foreign members are exploited to victimize Korean members. That free Korean language class isn’t so free anymore.
5. Meaningless positive message
Rather than learn that the leader is the undying messiah, he or she will more likely be introduced as a prominent peace activist, healer or philanthropist.
But the message falls apart, as these cults tend to be autocratic groups primarily serving the leader’s gratification.
“If everyone shared the same beliefs, there would be world peace,” said one cult leader.
“Cults do not take rejection well,” said Daley. If a cult is harassing you, he advises calling the police.