Grace Road saga: Group refutes slavery claims

Staff members of Grace Road Group in a jovial mood at their office in Navua. Picture: JONA KONATACI/FILE

“OUR leader Shin Ok-Joo will be released and she will come to Fiji and live here forever.”

These were the words of Grace Road Group president Daniel Kim during a press conference at their Navua farm yesterday afternoon.

Mr Kim said the allegations against Grace Road were “all lies” and that in Korea, this was a political and malicious attack towards their church leader and their group.

The Grace Road Church co-founder, Rev Shin Ok-Joo, arrested with three other “cult leaders” when they arrived at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport earlier this month.

The arrests were linked to the alleged assault and confinement of church followers in Fiji.

But Mr Kim said the allegations of slavery were “insane” because it was impossible to capture 400 people in Fiji given the wide range of operations they had around the country.

Mr Kim said that he was detained for two days by Fiji Police because of the allegations against Grace Road.

He said that while in custody, he had told Police officers that to capturing even 50 people, they would need cell blocks, surveillance and cages.

He asked how it could be claimed that Grace Road had captured 400 people in an open space, keeping in mind that most of their members were in different areas around the country.

Mr Kim said all the Koreans who had come from Korea and were working with Grace Road were equal company shareholders. This was why they were called “members” and not employees.

Mr Kim said all members had investment permits.

He said they had acquired a business licence to operate in Fiji, adding the group had about 350 Korean members and about 230 local employees which they intended to increase.

He said the reason there were police investigations in Korea and Fiji was because 10 years ago, their leader Shin Ok-ju was slandered by churches in Korea and that there were political issues involved.

“The Methodist Church in Korea wrote a letter to the Fiji Methodist Church saying that Grace Road is a cult group. In the Bible, cult means you deny Jesus Christ and His coming –  but we believe in Jesus Christ and the word of the Bible from the beginning. Then how can we be judged as a cult?” said Mr Kim.

He said officials from Korea’s Ministry of Affairs and Ministry of Health had come to Fiji to do a full investigation on them and their farms on hearing allegations of slavery, false labour and passport confiscation.

Mr Kim said those authorities found out that the Korean people at Grace Road came to live in Fiji voluntarily with their families on a mission to “make Fiji shine” which was also their motto.

“We are here to develop the nation, even though we are foreigners. This is our country as this nation of Fiji is written in the Bible and we believe that this nation will become the strongest nation in the world and that is why we are here.”

The Grace Road Group has nine different restaurants and a food processing business. In retailing  they have Missha cosmetics, hair and beauty salons, the Grace Road Construction company and True Value, a hardware store.

Mr Kim said they planned to to open another restaurant under the name “Fierce Chicken”, a shoe shop and a dental clinic in the new Flagstaff Plaza that is nearing completion in Suva.

 

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