Asia

South Korea 'pastor' and wife held over child killings

Map of South Korea

A South Korean couple have been arrested on suspicion of beating their three children to death to cure them of a "demonic illness", police say.

The children - five, eight and 10 years old - were found beaten and starved to death at a vicarage in South Cholla province.

Police arrested a 43-year-old "pastor" who had set up a "church" - and his wife.

The couple believed that the children's illness was caused by demons.

"The exact cause of the death has not been established yet, but we suspect the children passed out due to shock during the time they had been locked up and hit by their parents as they had weak immunity due to sickness," a police official was quoted by news agency Reuters as saying.

According to local reports, an autopsy indicated that the children had not eaten since January 23. A relative reportedly found the bodies one week later.

The parents had said that they had repeatedly beaten the children to cure them of a flu-like illness that they believed was caused by demons. The children's hands had been bound.

A fourth child has been placed in protective custody.

Media reports say that the self-styled pastor had a small congregation that was not recognised by other churches.

According to the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Seoul, child abuse in South Korea has been in the spotlight recently, with newspapers and films publicising several cases of severe neglect or abuse.