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Lee Gentleman-hee, the founding leader of the church at the heart of South Korea’s explosive coronavirus outbreak, bowed in supplication at a information conference on Monday and apologized amid escalating anger at his dealing with of the disaster.

“I have hardly ever imagined this kind of detail would happen,” Mr. Lee, 88, stated in a choking voice throughout a nationally televised information convention. “I am continue to making an attempt to realize how this could materialize.”

Mr. Lee called the information meeting after Seoul and other cities requested prosecutors to investigate him for potential criminal charges, which includes murder via willful carelessness. They accused Mr. Lee and his Shincheonji Church of Jesus of contributing to the nation’s soaring loss of life toll — 22 as of Monday — by impeding the government’s attempts to fight the outbreak.

Among other items, the church was accused of failing to supply a entire record of its members quick sufficient for the govt to monitor them down for testing.

By Monday, South Korea described more than 4,000 overall scenarios. At least 60 percent of the instances were being among members of a Shincheonji branch in Daegu, a town in southeast South Korea, and individuals they experienced been in get hold of with.

Mr. Lee denied the accusations in opposition to his team, expressing that his church was absolutely cooperating with the governing administration.

Reporting was contributed by Steven Erlanger, Melissa Eddy, Marc Santora, Anton Troianovsky, Elisabetta Povoledo, Steven Lee Myers, Clair 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 and Mike Baker.