Oh there's no doubt Man Hee Lee, the leader of the 신천지 cult, is the man behind Mannam. Mannam's own page lists him as "honorary president", and here's a Korean news report on the links between the two:
I've asked a friend for a translation of that. And there are other news reports focusing on the cult proper. Lots of pixelated faces. Pixelated faces mean either bad news or porn and sorry, but there was no porn.
Members have admitted the connection as well. But curiously while they admit their president is the leader of a cult, they deny Mannam has anything to do with that cult. Some very interesting mental double-think gymnastics are needed to reach that conclusion.
There's really no doubt that Mannam exists to support Lee's cult. Having said that, Mannam does seem to be a cult within a cult. Members of Mannam act exactly the same way cult members do when challenged and called out on their bullshit. And all these events being offered foreigners... you can be sure the Korean members are putting in enormous hours organising everything. Perhaps one goal of Mannam is just to keep them busy to aid in further indoctrination.
I've asked a few Mannam members about Mr Lee and the smiles quickly disappear and they suddenly become rather nervous.
And if this link hasn't been posted yet, here's an account of a large Mannam event in which Lee made an appearance:http://thethreewisemonkeys.com/2011/10/24/branding-korea-how-about-culture-shock-day-with-mannam-part-2/
And his cult is the subject of an article in Handong Global Uni's English newspaper on page 3:http://www.handongtoday.com/erp/menu_homepage/paper/uploadfiles/volume4_issue3.pdf
"Shin-chen-ji “lures believers” by ‘sending harvesters,’ to existing churches, generally through Bible study activities. Its target is mainly college students or young adults in their twenties. As their evangelistic gargets, Shin-chen-ji excludes senior citizens, physically handicapped persons, and graduates from seminaries as well as poor people. Another characteristic of Shin-chen-ji is that it has a lot of fake names. Instead of using only one name,
more than 45 names have been used to identify their churches. In addition, more than 40 academic terms, such as names for academic institutions, seminaries, or even missionary institutions are also used to lure believers."
And Lee was in the US recently to announce his messiahship:http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2012/07/anyone-who-is-a-believer-will-regret-it-if-he-or-she-does-not-come-see-instructor-manhee-lee-at-the-crystal-cathedral-this-saturday/
"So, his press girl called and asked me to do a write-up here, obviously hoping the great event would get that coveted “Orange Juice Bump.” She explained that Man Hee teaches that the world has already ended – long ago – and that we are now all in the afterlife. She said this would make a lot more sense once I hear Man Hee explain it in person. Then she begged me, whatever I write, to “Please treat Man Hee with respect.”
“I’m sorry, young lady, you called the wrong blog. We don’t do the respect thing here.”
“Well, then, please don’t write anything about him at all.”
“Sorry. Too late.” Click."
I'm working on collecting more material at the moment (with some friends from the expats site) and should have things together by Wednesday. I operate what I think is the largest site on Korean cults, so I'm absolutely fascinated by all this stuff: www.jmscult.com
And that reminds me, the reach Mannam has is really quite staggering. I've researched other fairly large groups in the past: JMS, Dahn, Jungsando, Jungshim and it's a rare occurrence when someone I know has encountered them as well. Mannam, different story. Very different story. Sure it may be something small like a class or a concert or a gay picnic (not that there's anything wrong with that), but if their goal is to reach as many foreigners as possible, they're doing a hell of a job.
And uhm how many of their activities would you consider really "volunteering"? There do seem to be a few (at least in outward appearance, but I maintain the real purpose is self promotion) but they seem unable to do any volunteering without putting badges and T-shirts on and sticking up huge banners saying so.http://www.mannamintl.org/volunteer-events.html
Interesting the use of English banners at an orphanage. They weren't trying to help the orphans (but that may have been an unintended side effect) they were there to get photos with orphans to put on their website to show to foreigners.
Astoundingly their own website says that they believe volunteering should be done for its own sake, not to promote yourselves. The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war. The Ministry of Let's Not Promote Ourselves concerns itself with self promotion.
Oh one more interesting connection. All over Mannam events are banners with the slogan "When light meets light, there is victory"... what does that even mean?www.lightmeetslight.com
links directly to a site operated by Lee's "church".
And the one time in my life I met a 신천지 recruiter was 2 minutes before and 50 meters away from the meeting point for the only Mannam trip I ever went on (I was undercover). Coincidence? if so, wow what a coincidence. It wasn't a coincidence.
Last but not least, to call it a volunteer organisation is an insult to people who actually volunteer for altruistic purposes. They're really a "Let's invite foreigners to our events" organization. It's really sad to see all these young and idealistic Koreans "volunteering" for a rich cult leader, and of course some or perhaps most of them have no idea that's what they're really doing. If you want to assist in their exploitation, sign up for some Mannam events. If not, I can think of about a million causes and individuals more worthy of their time and yours.