My Uncle The Exorcist

- The demon did not relocate successfully and a woman perished in the process. (eerie piano music) At the end of last year, I'd been reading a lot about what was going on with the South Korean president being involved in a shamanistic cult, and how her relationships with a former cult leader contributed to her eventual downfall. And so, it sort of reminded me of my family's own controversy when my uncle was arrested for taking part in a deadly prayer ritual. I started looking into what happened because nobody spoke about it when I was a kid. Umm. It was 1996, it was 4th of July, and my mother would always throw a barbecue. And it was one of the traditions that she upheld. As an immigrant from Korea, she wanted us to have this very all-American, patriotic holiday like everybody else. So, she was decorating this American flag cake and I was watching TV and I saw my uncle's mugshot appear on the news. It was alarming, I thought it was my father because they look very similar and they're brothers. And then I looked closer, and sure enough it was my uncle. Something about an exorcism was being reported. And I didn't know what that meant. It was such a strange thing to know that he took part in something very dark that we weren't allowed to talk about. I understood inherently there was something wrong. I lived for over 20 years not knowing. I started Googling my last name and exorcism and LA, and sure enough, I started finding articles that led me to other articles and more articles. And the details were gruesome and, very shocking. My uncle was one of three men who performed a prayer ritual on a woman. And they crushed her to death. Courtroom testimony was eerie. On the witness stand, he was talking about how they carried on this dialog with the demon. The demon refused to leave, the woman was foaming at the mouth, and speaking in tongues. They believed steadfastly in their convictions. To imagine him capable of truly believing in the fact that this woman deserved to be treated this way was very difficult to read. What happened with my uncle revealed a larger phenomenon of fringe Korean religious groups and also cults. I'm about to call Dr. Tark to speak to about his expertise. His father used to be the premier expert in Korean cults until he was murdered by a cult member in 1994. - I was certain that I'm the one who can follow the job. - Korean religious cults typically follow four principles. The god or holy spirit, or second coming of Christ, is Korean. The doctrine for the new kingdom is written in Korean. The chosen people are Korean. And the new kingdom will be founded in Korea. So, it's a very Korea-centric ideology. Historically, Korea has endured a lot with Japanese imperialism, eradication of Korean culture. And then after the Korean War, rebuilding a national identity. A lot of Korean people were in fear of what would happen next. And so, these cults that sprouted really provided ample room to allow Korean people to feel as if they were chosen. And to feel as if there was a place for them. And that, to me, made so much sense. Plenty of American sociologists in the early 2000s preferred using the term new religious movement, or new religion, just because cult has some understandably derogatory associations. The most recent incident in Germany, that group of people murdered a woman through a prayer ritual. They were said to practice a form of shamanistic, ancient Korean religion. Ultimately, I don't think that my uncle was part of a cult. And it wouldn't surprise me if he participated in this prayer ritual because he was hoping that he could be known, to be close to greatness. I think that's what the connecting tissue to what my uncle believed in and the wider world of cults, that people really want to believe that there's more for them and that they are chosen for something bigger. - It's hard for the family to find a way. I'm very happy for you, you write about your story. That's the beginning. (soft guitar music) It has big meaning for your family.