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Protestant churches apologize for cluster outbreaks, call for online services

Public officials disinfect the roadway in front of Yoido Full Gospel Church on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Public officials disinfect the roadway in front of Yoido Full Gospel Church on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Associations within the South Korean Protestant community on Tuesday issued public apologies for the recent massive infections linked to churches in and around the capital city area and urged Christian institutions to return to online services to prevent further transmissions.

"The community has done its best to comply with the COVID-19 quarantine guidelines," the United Christian Churches of Korea, one of the biggest associations of Protestant churches, said in a statement.

"But we'd like to offer an apology for triggering the wide spread of the virus in the community because of some churches violating the rules," it said.

The UCCK has major Protestant orders, including the Presbyterian Church of Korea, under its wing.

It also asked its member churches to shift to online services and cancel all on-site meetings and gatherings for the next two weeks.

The Christian community, which had suspended Sunday worship and other public events for about two month from February, has resumed in-person services and gatherings from May.

The Korean National Association of Christian Pastors also issued an apology for the recent resurgence in coronavirus transmissions in churches.

"We are responsible for the current spike in virus cases related to churches that did not follow sanitary regulations," the association said. "We ask all churches and pastors to closely cooperate with the quarantine authorities and comply with guidelines."

Large-sized Protestant churches, including Yoido Full Gospel Church, Onnuri Church and Somang Church, announced plans to hold their services online.

Earlier, several choir members of Yoido Full Gospel Church, the biggest Protestant church in South Korea with 560,000 congregants, tested positive for the coronavirus.

The moves came as South Korea has reported nearly 1,000 new coronavirus cases over the past five days, as hundreds of people from mid-sized churches in the greater Seoul area have been confirmed to have contracted the virus.

Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul has emerged as the source of the country's second-biggest infection cluster after the fringe religious sect Shincheonji, which has had over 5,000 infections among members. (Yonhap)

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