Minister for Immigration, Pio Tikoduadua says the Fiji Government has nothing against Grace Road Group Fiji but it is a matter between the Government of South Korea and the 7 persons that they have identified to be fugitives.
While receiving a petition from more than 20 employees of Grace Road Group, Tikoduadua says the government has it’s obligations based on the relationship with other governments.
He stresses his job is to uphold the law as it will always come first but we should also recognise that there are rights for everyone.
More than 20 staff of Grace Road Group Fiji gathered at the Prime Minister’s Office to make a plea to Tikoduadua for the release of the Group’s President and prohibited immigrant, Daniel Kim from immigration custody and to let him stay in Fiji.
While handing over their petition to the Minister, Asenaca Nuku, who is an employee of GR Group Fiji says the Group has made significant contributions to Fiji in the past years with positive economic and social impacts.
Nuku says this includes the creation of numerous job opportunities and outstanding services that raised the standards in various businesses and locations.
She says the recent event of the detainment of the Group’s President has caused negative impacts not only on the company but on the employees of the company and the confidence and stability of the economy in Fiji.
Tikoduadua acknowledged the Grace Road Group employees for raising their concerns as they are very important not only to him but to the people of Fiji as a whole.
He adds the Ministry takes this petition seriously and the matter is before the court.
Tikoduadua says he cannot elaborate more on it as his job is to protect the law.
He says the petition will be forwarded to relevant stakeholders to look into.
After the presentation of the petition, Grace Road Fiji has released another statement saying the current event clearly encompasses the entire Grace Road, not just a few of their members.
They say the underlying context represents a clear case of religious oppression, as indicated by the labeling of the group as a cult.
One of their senior executives, who was returning from an overseas business trip to Fiji, received a visa rejection notification while on the flight back.
Ana Sungdo, a senior administrator of Grace Road Group said she was denied entry into Fiji on Friday 8th September 2023, while having her investor visa all along.
She says she handles significant administrative tasks for the group, and she finds it extremely unfair that her visa was rejected, and she was even denied entry on a visitor visa. She further says she had no choice but to stay in Australia, but the Australian Immigration at the airport, who were notified by the Fijian Immigration, insulted her as a ‘cult’ and refused her entry.
The group also says in a separate incident this week, two of their senior managers, who are not on the list of the Immigration Department, were chased by unmarked cars during the day.
They say these vehicles dangerously stopped their vehicle by blocking the front and the rear in the middle of Suva.
They say they were then told that they were immigration officers, and held the members without any explanation and harassed them while not allowing them to leave for a while.
The group says during last week’s detainment of their members, the immigration authorities forcibly detained 62-year-old female member Nam Suk Choi in a heavy-handed manner.
They say the officials did not present any official letter, orders, or warrants.
The group claims just to detain one 62-year-old woman, over 15 police and immigration officers were involved.
They say the officials acted rudely and used physical force, causing fear among other staff, customers, and onlookers.
Although many international outlets have labeled Grace Road Church as a doomsday cult, the BBC reports the group denies it is a cult - as well as allegations of abuse.
Four suspected high-ranking members of a South Korean doomsday cult have been arrested here.
Two have been deported, but a legal injunction prevents the other prohibited immigrants from being ejected.
Its founder, Shin Ok-ju, who is Daniel Kim’s mother, was jailed in 2019 for holding Grace Road Church followers captive in Fiji and subjecting them to violence.
The Church has built a business empire after arriving in Fiji.
The leader of the South Korean doomsday cult was sentenced to six years in jail.
Shin Ok-ju, convinced 400 people to move to Fiji in 2014, claiming they would be safe from imminent natural disaster
Once here, their passports were taken away and many of them reported being beaten to "drive out evil spirits".
Shin was arrested in July 2018.
A sub-court of the Suwon District Court said the victims suffered helplessly from collective beatings and experienced not only physical torture but also severe fear and considerable mental shock.
The court said that heavy punishment is inevitable against illegal acts carried out in the name of religion.
Seoyeon Lee, a woman who escaped from the cult in 2014, told the BBC that she was "disappointed" with the court's decision.
Lee said the punishment did not fit the crime at all and she should be behind bars for a much longer time.
She also said that she hopes this encourages the Fijian government to take appropriate action and disassociate themselves with the organisation.
Shin preached that a global famine was imminent but that she and her followers would be safe in Fiji.
The church has leased land in Fiji and built a large business empire, with labour earlier provided by Shin's followers.
Grace Road Church's businesses in Fiji, operating under the name Grace Road Group, are wide-ranging - from construction to restaurants to agriculture.
OCCRP’s Pacific editor, Aubrey Belford, had told RNZ Pacific in 2022 the core issue with Grace Road in Fiji was the perception it had been given the red carpet treatment by the government.
Belford said they showed up in the country about 10 years ago and in that time they have managed to build what is now one of the biggest business empires in the country.
They counted 54 business establishments currently running in the country — 55 if you count the huge farm they have in Navua.
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