The Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, South Korea, has been blamed for the massive outbreak of COVID-19 in the country. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo
March 6 (UPI) -- A donation of about $10 million from the religious group being held responsible for the soaring number of coronavirus cases in South Korea has been turned down.
The Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, made the donation on Friday and sent a statement to local reporters regarding the offering, South Korean television network KBS reported.
The Community Chest of Korea, a government-sanctioned charity, said afterward it is returning the funds to Shincheonji, citing public opinion.
South Koreans are angry at the church for not fully cooperating with authorities on virus tests and government demands for a complete list of its members. A church member, South Korea's Patient No. 31, was reportedly a super-spreader who attended services while sick. There are now more than 6,500 confirmed cases in Korea.
According to Community Chest, the group never discussed donations with Shincheonji.
"The [$10 million] was deposited in accounts without prior consultation," the group said.
Community Chest also said further consideration would be given regarding the donation in the future, depending on the outcome of investigations into the religious sect.
According to Shincheonji, the donations were made separately to different offices of Community Chest. About $8.4 million was sent to the Daegu chapter of the charity, and another $1.6 million was delivered to central headquarters.
South Korean officials expressed concern about the donations amid the outbreak.
Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said Friday the issue is not money.
"What Shincheonji needs to do is to actively cooperate with the government and the city of Deagu," Kwon said, according to Hankyoreh.
Shincheonji is estimated to have about 200,000 members in South Korea.