In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal Review – a disturbing look into four Korean cult leaders

By Romey Norton
Published: March 4, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
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Another example of how religion is used to manipulate, control and sexually abuse people—a disturbing, disgusting, yet captivating series.

We review the Netflix true crime documentary series In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal.

This Netflix docuseries examines the chilling true-crime stories of four Korean leaders who claimed to be prophets and exposes the dark side of unquestioning belief. The episodes shed light on the Christian Gospel Mission (JMS named after one man Jung Myung-seok), where the members would call themselves ‘God’s brides,’ a deep look into the Odaeyang Mass Suicide where thirty-two members of a religious sect who believed in doomsday were found dead, a pseudo-religion that left the country speechless, and one man who claimed to be a God of all people. 

In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal Review and Plot Summary

There are eight episodes to binge-watch, with a runtime of roughly one hour each, and with audiences ever-shrinking attention spans, eight episodes might seem lengthy, but they’re worth sinking your teeth into. Each episode delves deeper into the tragedies that the four people claiming to be Gods caused upon society and the victims of the incidents. As you watch, you might think, what else could have happened? And this docuseries keeps giving you more and more horror. It could have been made into four documentaries, but the format still works. 

We get to hear testimonies that have not been made public yet, and many people’s identities are kept secret for their protection. The first episode hits hard with the pressure the victims are under. There is fly-on-wall style filming as one of the victims starring in the documentary is followed, and JMS is not approving. 

READ: Where is Jeong Myeong-Seok today? JMS Church President Explained

These first three episodes are about JMS and are shockingly sexually perverted, and I felt uncomfortable and angry while watching. The reconstructed scenes are graphic; there are a lot of scenes containing nudity and swearing. We hear recordings of ‘The Lord’ and his victims, and they’re creepy and disturbing to listen to, leaving me feeling sick.

Many religious groups were arrested for kidnapping, abuse, and the leaders were accused of misusing church funds. When Joeng Myeong-Seok was accused, he fled abroad but continued his promiscuous ways and became an Issue in Taiwan after reportedly assaulting and raping almost one hundred college students. 

I think what made JSM so appealing is that they marketed themselves as being expressive, fun, and exciting, and you were serving your Lord. However, when people went to be blessed and accepted, they were sexually assaulted and raped instead. Being manipulated into believing they would defy their God if they didn’t comply. This cult has been active since the 1980s and continues to this day.  

READ: Best True Crime Series on Netflix of All Time

Episode four is focused on the story of the mass suicide, which saw four men and twenty-eight women found hanging from rafters. Like the other episodes, the images are graphic, and the story is surprising and sickening. You’ll learn this mass suicide is driven by religious fanaticism and one specific cult leader who had accrued mass debts.

Episodes five and six tell the horrific story of a 5-year-old called Nak-Gwi who was starved and beaten to death in a pigsty. The episode starts with a woman, his mother, smacking herself across the face wishing someone would stone her to death. They were part of a cult called The Baby Gardens. Following orders, we hear from members of this cult who participated in the murder of the innocent boy… and many, many more people. It delves into the cult itself, including the work of the ‘baby makers’ and its unthinkable rules—heartbreaking episodes.

The final two episodes follow a man who leads the cult Manmin Central Church, whose followers in 1999 stormed a broadcasting station MBC and stopped the broadcast. While the followers describe this church as a safe place, a pilgrimage, it’s more like a terrorist group. It became so popular as the master magically healed people, giving hope. This was not the reality. It was a money-making scam; people have paid thousands for a blessing. It’s eye-opening and shows how people can be taken advantage of financially.

Is In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal good?

Yes. For a true-crime documentary series, this delves into the power cults and their leaders can have, and the victims’ experience.

I enjoyed that I wasn’t force-fed mass information in a short time and had time to listen and process what I was watching. Horrifyingly, these stories aren’t unheard of. We often see stories of people using religion to manipulate, control and abuse others, especially women, sexually and use their power for personal gain. Nonetheless, this docuseries has some horrendous tragedies, and it’s heartbreaking to see what people are truly capable of. It’s also an informative look into this abuse in South Korea and how these cases are handled in the Asian community—a well-worthy watch. 

What did you think of the Netflix true crime documentary series In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal? Comment below.

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