Seoul to file lawsuit against pastor blamed for virus spread

Seoul, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- The city of Seoul announced Friday that it will file a 4.6 billion won ($3.9 million) compensation lawsuit against Jun Kwang-hoon, pastor of Sarang Jeil Church, which is at the center of the second-largest outbreak of COVID-19 that South Korea has suffered.

Jun was one of the figures who led the mass anti-government protests in Seoul on Aug. 15, even though the metropolitan government of the South Korean capital had placed strict limits on social gatherings, and despite the fact that days before the rallies, some church members had tested positive for COVID-19.

Jun himself tested positive afterwards.

The city also believes that Jun made it difficult to trace cases and provided false documentation about church members, leading to a resurgence of cases.

“Even limiting the damages to cases reported within Seoul, the (damages) inflicted upon the city government, transportation agency, ward offices, the country and the health insurance institution are estimated at 13.1 billion won,” a statement published Friday by the city council said.

The city’s spokesman Hwang In-sik told a news conference that the sum is “merely part of the tangible losses.”

“The difficulties that citizens faced due to strengthened social distancing and the economic impact on the national economy are massive to the extent that it’s not even countable,” Hwang said, according to Yonhap news agency.

Lawyers representing the church deny the accusations and demand that the central government, which they accuse of failing to contain the virus, sue China for compensation.

In the days following the rallies, cases rose to 150, up from less than 10 in early August, Yonhap reported.

The outbreak linked to the church has accumulated more than 1,100 infections and the demonstrations almost 600.

The tightening of social distancing measures, only relaxed this week, forced the closure of establishments considered high-risk, such as internet cafes, karaoke bars and nightclubs, and in the Seoul region, where half the country lives, it forced bars, cafes and restaurants to turn away customers after 9 pm.

Social distancing has helped reduce the spread of infection and South Korea has been counting less than 200 new infections daily for more than two weeks. EFE-EPA


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