Camilla Wagemans was studying law at Australian National University when she was seduced by a South Korean-based Christian cult called ‘Providence’.
She left Australia for South Korea to be a ‘spiritual bride’ to the sect’s leader Jeong Myeong-seok, who reportedly encouraged female followers to have sex with him to achieve purification.
The young woman was approached by recruiters at her university, her father believes. All cult staff are following orders from Myeong-seok, who’s currently serving a 10-year jail sentence for the rape and molestation of his followers, Daily Mail reports.
According to ABC’s 7.30, the cult targets tall, attractive women, who they then push to cut ties with relatives.
In a promotional video, Wagemans says she knew about the cult's reputation before signing up. But saw how the teachings led to "positive" changes in her life.
"I heard about what he'd been accused of," she says in the video. "But after listening to him preach about love, forgiveness, compassion and self-improvement on such a consistent basis, I realised no one could preach like that unless they were living like that, too."
Wagemans' father Gerry told ABC's 7.30 he learnt about his daughter succumbing to the cult when his friend called him, telling him to turn on the television.
"The program was about a Korean cult. In one of the shots, I saw my daughter Camilla," Gerry said. "Her face was blurred out but I recognised the coat I'd bought her. I was horrified."
He said he thought his daughter started to change when she moved into a share house with fellow students in Canberra. That there was "always something" about that house, and her housemates had these "cheshire cat smiles". It is reported Providence has had recruiting arms in Australia since the '90s, including in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, where they operate in shopping centres and universities.
"The Camilla I knew was smart, fun and intelligent," Gerry said. "The whole commitment to the cult made no sense to me."
Now, he only talks to his daughter intermittently, through superficial emails or brief phone conversations. The cult cannot be mentioned, and they must only talk about old times - before she went away.
"You can't mention anything about Providence. If you touch on that subject no questions are ever answered," he said.
"The only way to make contact with her is through her pre-cult persona and remember the things we did before she joined and the fun we had."
The former law student isn't the only woman to be seduced by Providence.
Annother woman, Elizabeth, spoke to Daily Mail about her 18-month experience as a member of the Providence branch in Canberra.
"We had to wake up every day at 3am to pray because they said this brought us closer to God. It's a mind control technique: when you're deprived of sleep you can't think critically," she said.
"They encouraged us to write letters to Jeong Myeong-seok like he was our lover. He wrote sexually explicit replies saying things like 'your white skin arouses me', or 'your vagina would look pretty'."
Jeong and Camilla Wagemans both denied claims of sexual misconduct when approached by the ABC.
But the reality for family members like Gerry remains:
"I can only cope by considering that she is not really part of my life anymore," he said. "It's as if she is dead."
He just hopes she comes home one day. One day in his life time.
Read 7.30's full report.
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