Children die in religious rite

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South Korean police have arrested a 43-year-old self-styled church pastor and his wife who confessed to beating their three young children to death in an attempt to cleanse them of their illnesses and sins.

Police said the children, aged five, eight and ten, were found with their heads shaved and their parents kneeling beside them in a house used as a church. They were found in Boseong, a village in the south, on Saturday.

South Korean media reports said the “pastor” and his wife had a congregation of ten followers and said they had locked up their children – two sons and a daughter – on 24 January after they became sick with colds.

The couple beat each child with a belt and fly-swatter 39 times in the morning and 39 times in the evening.