Netflix's recent documentary, In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal, touches on the supposed connection between Synnara Records and the Baby Garden (Aga Dongsan) cult.
Synnara Records is among the most popular online and offline companies that sell K-pop records domestically and internationally. Since the documentary began airing on the OTT platform, many fans have started calling for a boycott after learning of its alleged heinous origins.
This feature attempts to dissect this supposed connection between the sect, its leader Kim Ki-soon, and Synnara Records, while also shining a light on the position occupied by the distributing company in a world where K-pop has become a worldwide phenomenon. It is a very surprising and direct relationship between Baby Garden and Synnara Records, making it something that fans who purchase from the company ought to know.
Trigger Warning: Readers are advised that this article (and the documentary itself) has mentions of child abuse, physical assault, and other such horrors.
Synnara Records, Baby Garden, and the exposure of its alleged atrocities in Netflix's In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal
Rumors about the ownership of Synnara Records have been called into question for a while now, with a number of Twitter users (such as @keiyupid, seen in the above Tweet) giving detailed information about the crimes of the founder of Baby Garden, Kim Ki-soon. Nonetheless, she was not convicted for any of the outrageous offenses laid out in the Netflix docu-series to date.
The sect itself was founded in 1982, when Kim Ki-soon took over from preacher Lee Kyo-bu, eventually gaining enough following to form her own cult, according to The Dong-a Ilbo. Baby Garden soon became a communion with the members inhabiting the same space, with strict rules enforced on them.
Ki-soon, who called herself Aga (or baby in Korean), predicted an apocalypse that could only be survived by her followers, probably intimidating them into submission.
The documentary also mentioned some of the stranger rules which stressed on abstinence and hard labor, while also forbidding married couples from living together.
The connection between Baby Garden and Synnara Records
Synnara is one of the most well-known distributing companies for K-pop, and it is heavily suggested in In the Name of God that it was used to channel funds earned by the more unsavory activities of Baby Garden.
The documentary brings forth the plight of the workers (from the sect) who were either grossly underpaid or not paid at all. Netizens and journalists (such as in The Dong-a Ilbo) have suggested that this was the reason why merchandise from the distributor was so inexpensive - there was no reason to sell at a higher price if the worker was basically a slave.
In 1998, some of this neglect of human rights came to light after some members sued the leader. Kim Ki-soo was arrested after a two-year-long investigation and charged with tax evasion, embezzlement, and exploitation. She was sentenced to four years imprisonment, along with a fine of 5.60 billion Korean won (about $4.53 million), but was later acquitted and released on bail.
However, Ki-soon received no punishment for the actual horrors touched upon in In the Name of God.
The alleged involvement of Synnara Record's founder in murders, abuse, and more
The fifth episode of the Netflix documentary covers the death of a young boy, Nak-gwi, who was allegedly kept in a pig pen, forced to eat pig feces, and eventually beaten to death by multiple individuals, including his own aunt. His death was ruled a heart attack, something his mother attested to in court.
In the Name of God suggested through witness accounts and fictionalized picturizations that Kim Ki-soon apparently accused the child of being possessed by Satan and ordered his mistreatment, even participating in some of the more heinous parts of it herself.
Apart from this, the documentary insinuates Ki-soon's involvement in two other deaths, which were dismissed in court due to lack of sufficient evidence.
K-pop fans discovering the Synnara-Baby Garden link
K-pop fans recently discovered that Synnara Records still allegedly had connections to the sect, and Koreaboo reported that former supposed members are still part of the management of the distribution company. The issue first made international news in 1997, when the relationship between Baby Garden and Synnara Records first came to light.
Since January 2023, followers of different K-pop groups have been encouraging each other not to buy from the company, detailing its purported relationship with Baby Garden.
This has blown up a lot more since In the Name of God was released on Netflix, with many fans posting that Synnara Records needs to be blacklisted for local and international fans, while also calling out entertainment companies working with the distributor.
Cults trying to ban the documentary
On March 14, 2023, Kim Ki-soon and some sect members filed an application for a provisional injunction against the fifth and sixth episodes of the Netflix documentary featuring Baby Garden, saying that it contained "false information about Baby Garden and Kim Ki Soon".
The makers of In the Name of God: A Holy Betrayal are confident that the series will not be banned, as another cult, JMS, was unsuccessful in getting its episodes off-air.
The documentary series is certainly not easy to watch and can be triggering for many viewers. However, it does offer deep insights into how leaders of religious cults use faith as a way to exploit individuals and how sometimes it takes the courage of a few who go against the grain to bring these heinous exploitations and crimes to light.
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