Keeping a Keen Eye for Uninvited Guests
Analyzing malicious visitors on campus
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“Do you support helping 3rd world countries? Sign here.” “Can you tell me how to get to the library?” “Can you help fill out a survey?” At first thought, your instinctive reaction to these questions would not be suspicion unless you have had past experiences with malicious scammers. From the straightforward cult recruiters who step up to you asking if you know “The Path” to strategic swindlers who approach you in a less conspicuous way. These widespread groups with the intent of scamming innocent people are a growing nuisance in our society. These days, the number of these malicious visitors are growing in school campuses, which is a new threat to student and school culture.
Distorting people’s faith and feeding on their confusion
The largest group of these malicious visitors are the self-claimed missionaries from pseudo religions. This is a completely separate realm from the controversial debates between religions that accuse each other as “not genuine.” What characterizes the pseudo religions or cults discussed here is that these groups not only distort beliefs and worship false gods, they often financially exploit their followers and in many cases leads to the destruction of families. In contrast to traditional missionaries, the major cults existence in Korea is usually distinguished by extreme persistence in dragging people into their so-called “religion”, even to the extent of direct family members. They spend an unusually large proportion of their time studying unapproved interpretations of the bible or committing their loyalty to false worship figures. Usually, these cults become the center of these followers’ lives to a point where they become detached from their family and work. A radical practice of one of the most well-known pseudo religions in Korea was the selection of spouses among young members. In terms of financial exploitation, there are a variety of schemes, from mandating a certain percentage of followers’ incomes as donations to brainwashing them into deliberately donating the majority of their assets. Often, this distorted form of faith leads to divorces and destruction of families.
Many schools have started to raise student awareness on the issue of pseudo religions.
(Photo courtesy of Imaeil News)
So how do these cults recruit followers? Due to the widespread awareness regarding the existence and intent of these groups, cults nowadays veil their purposes behind innocent causes. Over the years, their strategies have become more intelligent, varying case by case depending on the target victims. For pseudo religions, young people are a significant target group that they can greatly benefit by recruiting. Naturally, the number of recruiters have grown in number on college campuses and their strategies have become specialized to be more effective. Here are some of the case experiences shared by Hanyang students.
“I was approached by a middle-aged woman who was wearing a suit and holding some files. She told me that she was a career consultant, and that she came to the campus as a part of her research. She asked me about my career development process and some background information including name, school, and contact number saying she would help me with my career. I took this offer and visited her a number of times. The first two sessions were genuine counseling, after which she gradually began to introduce religious themes and inviting me to join group gatherings and show up to church.” (anonymous at the request of the interviewee)
These types of approaches are not confined to Western religions; they are sometimes followers of Eastern religion, such as Buddhism and Taoism. In another answer from a student requesting to remain anonymous, two people claiming to be ordinary students came up and asked personal questions. One odd characteristic was that they asked how the student's name was written in Chinese and the date of birth by the Lunar calendar. They, then, requested a small amount of money, which they would use in the process of paying respects to his ancestors. This ritual was claimed to please his ancestors and bring better fortune to the family.
Recruitment tactics come in different forms of strategies
Other malicious intentions
Aside from religious visitors, there are a number of visitors to the campus with different agendas. One common group are those who coerce charity. Although some people are genuinely working to contribute to donations for those in need, some people approach students without clarifying their intent. Rather than to clearly ask for charity or a donation, these people ask students to answer a simple question of whether they support donation. Then they vaguely ask how much the students are willing to donate. After getting a signature, they change their attitude, suddenly pressuring the donation of that amount. While it is questionable whether those donations are validly used for charity, some of their tactics are said to be quite aggressive. Aside from these "charity workers", there are also cases of encounters where personal questions are asked to students without clearly stating the motive or intention. In one form or another, personal information such as name, age, major are asked about, as well as variations, such as student's greatest worries, life mottos, and so on. In most of these cases, the students are just left confused, as they are not followed up with proper explanations, or even the request of money or membership to a cult.
A Korean news article expresses concerns over foreign charity workers without clear authorization. Their membership is said to be suspected of having a relationship with an infamous Korean cult.
(Photo courtesy of News Power)
Keeping our campus clean
On the issue of pseudo religion missonaries, it was answered on behalf of Hanyang's Buddhist club, The Buddihst Student Association explained that, “Regardless of the religion, we dislike people who nudge others to become believers even if it’s from a family member. Pseudo religion members practice a number of strategies to recruit new members, from spreading flyers to telling people that they have features of a good fortune." Furthermore, the opinion of the Christian club said that a lot of cults have appeared around campus, approaching students under the pretense of personality tests, leadership seminars, and such. Once a member, these cults are very difficult to escape from and, most of the time, destroy families. They advise students to stay wary of these malicious visitors and to reject their approaches.
Aside from religous frauds, other forms of malicious visitors have contributed to confusion and have, from time to time, caused trouble inside the Hanyang campuses. Furthermore, they create an atmosphere of mistrust on campus. For instance, students who are genuinely carrying out a survey for their project could be mistaken as a cult recruiter. These effects, ultimately, create distractions and distance between students of Hanyang, derailing the learning atmosphere. On this issue, awareness is of utmost importance. Be keen to spot out scammers and do not indulge in their conversations. Some actions of the school could also help, in the form of raising awarness and increasing security and surveillance.
Lee Chang-hyun email@example.com
Photos by Lee Jin Myung
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