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South Korea police raid church at center of COVID-19 outbreak

South Korea police raid church at center of COVID-19 outbreak
Sarang Jeil Presbyterian Church, led by the Rev.  Jun Kwang-hoon, is under investigation following a major outbreak tied to the organization. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Aug. 21 (UPI) -- South Korea police sent more than 200 officers to the church at the epicenter of a major COVID-19 outbreak following resistance from church members.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency sent a team of 210 officers at 7:20 p.m. on Friday to conduct a "forced" epidemiological investigation, News 1 reported. The church members may have intentionally submitted an inaccurate list of the followers of Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, according to the report.

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The police were sent to the site to seize evidence and to secure a correct list of church members. When no member appeared, the police began their operations at about 8:40 p.m. local time, the report says.

Police actions were described as a "forced investigation" and come after South Korean authorities and the city of Seoul filed a complaint stating Jun and his church were not cooperating with quarantine measures.

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The church raid comes a day after police sent a smaller team of 30 officers. The group did not have a warrant and returned without completing investigations after being turned away.

Friday night's raid comes after Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung said on his Facebook page tougher measures are needed to respond to the spread of the coronavirus, Newsis reported.

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"Responding to infectious diseases is an urgent and critical matter comparable to war," Lee said.

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"This is not about punishment. Rejecting [guidelines] is a violation of the Infectious Diseases Control and Prevention Act, and resistance is also a crime of obstruction."

Lee also said in his statement that he "cannot understand" why a warrant is necessary to conduct search and seizure operations of a group that has broken the law.

"Even at this moment, COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire, and the safety of 13.7 million residents in Gyeonggi Province is under threat," the South Korean politician said.

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On Friday South Korea confirmed 324 more cases, bringing the total to 16,670.

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