Edit: I took this post down for a while because I was getting some weird interesting comments, mostly from anonymous people attacking me for my perspective, trying to convince me otherwise. My point of this post was to state my opinion of the organization and encourage others to make their own, without playing into the hateful disparaging commentary of the critics.  While I appreciate discussion, I really think it’s a moot point considering that I’ve made up my mind and I’m happy with my participation. -Peace.

Mike and I are part of an organization called Mannam International, which exists for volunteerism and the promotion of world peace. Now, if you are in Korea, you most likely have heard the rumors about it being a cult, because of its connection to a Christian church (Shinchonji) with cultish tendencies. I’m not trying to persuade anyone to believe whether Mannam is or isn’t a cult. Personally, after doing my research, I don’t think it is. I encourage everyone to do the same and to make their own informed decision.  I can only share my thoughts and my experiences with the organization.

Like many other Mannam members, I was hurt and confused by the rumors and incredible negative backlash from the expat community in Korea.  The generalization went something like this:

Shinchonji is a cult.

Shinchonji is connected to Mannam.

Mannam, therefore, is a cult.

You belong to Mannam.

Therefore you are a cult member.

As a cult member, you agree with and support Shinchonji.

Whoa! Back up a second…Yes, I belong to Mannam, but in no way shape or form, am I a cult member. I have my own religious beliefs, and I respect everyone else’s right to their own beliefs as well. Yes, even Shinchonji members.  To me, it doesn’t matter.  Would I like everyone to believe the same things as I do? Absolutely! But I know that’s not how the world works.

I am disappointed with Mannam International for omitting this important connection. I understand they did it out of fear of discrimination and intolerance for its Shinchonji members, but they should have disclosed it sooner. However, I think it’s fair to give them the benefit of the doubt, considering they are a new organization, less than a year old. Mistakes are bound to be made. I think the leadership has taken responsibility and is heading in the right direction now.

Also, I am extremely disappointed by the reaction of the expat community in Korea. I feel like I’m in high school and because something or someone has become unpopular, everyone is dropping it like a hot potato. Not only dropping it, but hurling insults, gossiping, and being generally hurtful and intolerant.

The easier thing would be to walk away and disassociate myself from this social pariah. The harder thing would be to stick through it, work it through, and help it grow into something better. I think I will gain a lot by taking the harder path, which is what I’ve decided to do.

I joined the club because I believe in its mission of tolerance, world peace, and helping others. That has not changed. By continuing my membership, I think I can help shape it for the better. That is my hope, anyway.

Edit: A lot of friends and family have asked me about Mike’s perspective on the whole thing. Well, he thinks it’s pretty harmless, and also funny. He likes telling people we’re part of a cult. Lol…


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