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Lee Man-hee, the founding chief of the church on the middle of South Korea’s explosive coronavirus outbreak, bowed in supplication at a information convention on Monday and apologized amid rising anger at his dealing with of the disaster.

“I have never imagined this kind of thing would happen,” Mr. Lee, 88, mentioned in a choking voice throughout a nationally televised information convention. “I am still trying to understand how this could happen.”

Mr. Lee known as the information convention after Seoul and different cities requested prosecutors to research him for potential prison expenses, together with homicide by means of willful negligence. They accused Mr. Lee and his Shincheonji Church of Jesus of contributing to the nation’s rising demise toll — 22 as of Monday — by impeding the federal government’s efforts to struggle the outbreak.

Among different issues, the church was accused of failing to supply a full listing of its members quick sufficient for the federal government to trace them down for testing.

By Monday, South Korea reported greater than four,000 complete circumstances. At least 60 p.c of the circumstances have been amongst members of a Shincheonji department in Daegu, a metropolis in southeast South Korea, and individuals that they had been in touch with.

Mr. Lee denied the accusations towards his group, saying that his church was absolutely cooperating with the federal government.

Reporting was contributed by Steven Erlanger, Melissa Eddy, Marc Santora, Anton Troianovsky, Elisabetta Povoledo, Steven Lee Myers, Claire Fu, Russell Goldman, Sheri Fink, Mitch Smith, Richard C. Paddock, Aurelien Breeden, Rick Gladstone, Jesse McKinley, Joseph Goldstein, Alan Yuhas, Richard Pérez-Peña, Heather Murphy, Mike Baker, Roni Caryn Rabin, Knvul Sheikh and Katie Thomas.

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