Cloning Cult Miffed About Treatment of Leader

The leader of an alien-worshipping cult that dabbles in human cloning experiments urged his followers to stage a public protest on Wednesday after he was denied permission to enter South Korea at the weekend.

Claude Vorilhon, the French former journalist who calls himself "Rael," was detained at the Incheon International Airport for nine hours Saturday before being put onto a flight out of the country.

The justice ministry said it had banned Vorilhon, who is in his mid-50s, and his 27-year-old wife, identified as Sophie de Niverville, from entering Korea, "due to his campaigns on behalf of human cloning here."

They were put onto a flight to Tokyo, and from there they reportedly returned to Canada, where the Raelians headquarters is located.

The Raelians are the group that, through an arm called Clonaid, claims to have successfully cloned humans - a claim never independently proven and widely dismissed as a hoax.

The group, which says it believes extra-terrestrials landed on Earth 25,000 years ago and started the human race through cloning, claims to have 60,000 members worldwide, including 4,000 in Korea.

Since last July, the Seoul government has been keeping a close eye on the Raelians, amid concerns that the group may carry out its controversial cloning attempt in the country.

In September, a Raelian-Clonaid subsidiary in Korea said it had moved a pregnant Korean woman - a volunteer "mother" of an allegedly cloned baby - to an unspecified destination abroad because of the government's opposition.

Korean authorities subsequently raided the company's premises, seizing documents and questioning staff about whether they were involved in the cloning project.

Vorilhon had planned to visit Korea for two weeks this month, to participate in seminars on "sensual meditation" and for a gathering of Raelian members from various Asian countries.

Before flying out, he told a Korean news agency he would not return to the country until the authorities apologized for treating him "like a North Korean."

Kwak Gi-hwa, a Korean who variously describes himself as a representative of Clonaid and of the Raelians, said in response to queries that "Rael" had instructed his followers to hold demonstrations outside South Korean embassies around the world Wednesday to protest his treatment.

In Korea itself, they would protest outside the government ministry responsible for moves to ban human cloning.

Wednesday was chosen because it is the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, which links in with the Raelians' focus on "global peace."

Kwak claimed, without elaborating, that President Bush had asked his South Korean counterpart, Roh Moo-hyun to investigate the Raelian movement in Korea.

Following his denial of entry into Korea, Vorilhon says he will use the Internet to bypass such restrictions.

The Raelians said in a statement he held a conference via web cam with Korean members on Monday, during which he praised the Internet as technology that would "destroy borders, immigration, repressive laws and censorship."

Vorilhon alleged that Catholics in the Korean government were behind the move to bar him.

He called the action "blatant discrimination" and demanded an apology, suggesting that Seoul send "His Holiness Rael" an official invitation to discuss the matter with government members.

His online conference also touched on several other subjects, including U.S. military spending, nuclear weapons and North Korea, which Vorilhon said he wanted to visit, to "offer technology like cloning [and] the Internet to help the people recover their freedom."

By late Wednesday afternoon East Asian time, there had been no reports of Raelians protesting in any of the countries in the region where the group claims to have members, including Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore and Australia.