Virus murder probe against S.Korea church leader

After a secretive church in South Korea became the center of the nation's coronavirus outbreak, the sect leader knelt down before the nation for forgiveness on Monday (March 2).

Lee Man-hee, a self-proclaimed messiah who founded the Shincheonji Church of Jesus may be facing a murder investigation for its refusal to cooperate with the authorities.

(SOUNDBITE) (Korean) SOUTH KOREA'S FOUNDER OF THE SHINCHEONJI CHURCH OF JESUS THE TEMPLE OF THE TABERNACLE OF THE TESTIMONY, LEE MAN-HEE SAYING:

"It was something we had to do, but we were capable enough to stop it (the virus). I am really grateful that the government has been making efforts to stop the coronavirus spread. And at the same time, I am asking forgiveness."

Many have blamed the church's secretive nature for the surge in cases after a 61-year-old woman known as the 'super-spreader' infected others.

Now all of its 310,000 known followers are being tested for the virus while the South Korean army was mobilized to disinfect the city of Daegu, home to the Shincheonji Church.

Seoul has asked prosecutors to consider a murder investigation, saying the church was liable for its refusal to cooperate with efforts to stop the disease.

Dozens of soldiers were seen in full protective suits, spraying disinfectant on Monday while military vehicles were tasked with sterilizing roads.

South Korea has reported 476 new coronavirus cases, taking the nation tally up to more than 4,000 broadening the largest virus outbreak outside China.

A large majority of South Korea's total cases have been linked to the church.