By February 25, South Korea recorded 11 deaths from nCoV, more than 1,100 cases of infection, of which more than half were related to members of the Tan Thien Dia sect, an organization founded by Lee Man-hee 36 years ago.

Lee was born in 1931 in Cheongdo City, North Gyeongsang Province.

Lee Man-hee at a villa on the outskirts of Seoul in July 2017.

Lee then gathered a number of Tent Temple followers to establish the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, considering 1984, the year of the sect’s founding, as `the year the universe completed an orbit and returned to its starting point`.

Lee asserted that the Bible was written allegorically and that only he could interpret and understand it.

To attract followers, Lee said that the `new heaven and earth` would begin in Korea and that when the number of people saved reached 144,000, the Shincheonji era would begin in the city of Gua Chun.

Lee also affirmed that he would never die and that his followers would also enjoy this `physical immortality`.

After the Shincheonji sect became a major outbreak in Korea, Lee Man-hee sent messages to followers in an internal application.

Lee urged worshipers to follow directions from government agencies and avoid gatherings.

The sect blamed a 61-year-old female follower, known as `Patient 31` for spreading nCoV while attending church.

`Her actions are not surprising to those who understand Tan Thien Dia,` said expert Chung Yun-seok.

Ji-il Tark, an expert at Busan Presbyterian University in South Korea, said Shincheonji believers are more vulnerable to the virus because they often sit very close to each other during services.

Former member Lee Ho-yeon confirmed that some of the sect’s regulations made members especially vulnerable to infection.

`To spread their faith, believers often attract relatives, acquaintances or secretly go to churches to attract followers of other sects without telling them that they are Shincheonji members,` Tark said.

The Baptist Church in Manipur, India once warned its followers to avoid being seduced by Shincheonji.

In the Seoul suburb of Guri-si, pastor Shin Hyun-wook said his life’s mission is to counsel former cult members.

In addition to the Shincheonji sect, Daenam hospital in Cheongdo district, North Gyeongsang province, is the place with the second highest number of infected cases in Korea.

Last weekend, Tan Thien Dia rejected the criticism, saying it was `slander based on prejudice against the sect`.

Tan Thien Dia emphasized that they were `just victims` and called on people not to hate.

In an interview with PRI reporter Matthew Bell in 2017, when asked about the vision that led to the founding of Shincheonji, Lee said he did not want to talk about it.

On Lee’s business card are the titles president of the Heavenly Cultural Foundation, World Peace and Restoration of Light and the MANNAM Volunteer Association.

Lee explains God the Father worked for peace, his son Jesus also worked for peace, and now, Lee is an international peace activist.

The cult leader mentioned that he drafted a declaration to end all global wars.

Lee believes that prominent Christian leaders in Korea and elsewhere criticized Lee because they were jealous of him as his sect grew.

Before leaving, Bell asked Lee a sensitive question: `Who will take over after you die?`.

`I don’t know,` Lee replied.