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Monday, April 15, 2024

Gwinnett Police investigating religious link in Korean woman’s murder

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Gwinnett County Police Department Public Information Officer Juan Madiedo is providing a briefing on the 6 Korean American involved murder case. [Photo by Olivia Bowdoin]

The suspects in the murder of a Korean woman in Duluth, Georgia, are believed to have had religious motivations. The Korean American suspects are thought to be members of a specific religious organization. The victim had traveled to Atlanta with the intent of joining this group.

“The suspects referred to themselves as ‘Soldiers of Christ’,” said Juan Madiedo, the Public Information Officer for the Gwinnett County Police Department, during a case briefing on September 14. “It appears that the woman came to the United States earlier this summer with the intention of joining a specific religious organization.”

Currently, it remains unclear whether “Soldiers of Christ” refers to an established religious organization. However, police suspect that the motive behind the crime might be rooted in religious beliefs or doctrines.

The suspects had been living in the Lawrenceville area. Korean American pastors in Atlanta are keenly observing the case’s developments due to the religious terminology used during the police briefing.

Sung-Koo Kim, pastor of the Lawrenceville Light and Salt Church, stated, “I’ve never heard of such a group. Despite the significant Korean population here, we don’t know of any church or religious group called ‘Soldiers of Christ’.”

Should the investigation find concrete ties to religious organizations, it could profoundly affect the Korean American community in the region.

A similar incident occurred a decade earlier, which still looms in the memory of the community. Pastor Jongmin Kim, the general secretary of the Korean Churches Council of Greater Atlanta, recalled, “In 2012, a Korean pastor who claimed he was Jesus duped students by offering sham ESL classes through the Georgia Institute of Technology Korean Student Association website. That event garnered significant attention from Korean media. Given the age of the current suspects and their purported religious affiliations, I fear this might be another instance of pseudo-religious exploitation.”

The accused have secured legal representation. The case involving 15-year-old Junyeong Lee will be tried in juvenile court.

Jason Park, an attorney, told the Korea Daily, “We’re working closely with the police and are awaiting our opportunity to share our perspective in court.”

Woo-hyung Cho, a police consul at the Korean Consulate General in Atlanta, remarked, “We’ve confirmed the victim’s identity, but we haven’t yet been able to contact her family in South Korea. We continue our efforts to reach them.”

BY YEOL JANG   [jang.yeol@koreadaily.com]