Congratulations: world survived

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The Independent Online
IF YOU are reading this article then the world did not end last night. You have probably also been spared from maggot hell, reptile hell, spider-web hell and prostitutes' hell, which a South Korean sect had been prophesying for unbelievers, starting at midnight last night (Korean time). You should be grateful.

Some 20,000 South Koreans were waiting for the Second Coming of Christ last night. Many had given up their jobs, sold their assets and abandoned their families to be ready to take part in what their church leaders had told them would be a 'rapturous' ascent into heaven.

Meanwhile Planet Earth was to be subject to all the horrors of the Apocalypse, dominated by an Antichrist who some believed was to come from Europe. According to one document doing the rounds in Seoul, 'the Antichrist will show his face to the world as the leader of unified Europe'. That was apparently deduced from the bar codes of European computers, which the document claims add up to 666, the number of the Antichrist in the Bible.

Fearing that the non-arrival of the end of the world last night could provoke mass suicides among deceived church members, the government mobilised hundreds of riot police to be on stand- by outside the Dami church in Seoul, the sect's centre. Hundreds of concerned relatives of the believers also gathered outside the church in the hope of snatching their loved ones from the jaws of an illusory Armageddon.

So convincing was the message of the end of the world that the church members were unfazed by the arrest of the leader of the Dami church, Lee Jang Lim, earlier this month on charges of defrauding his flock. Police said Mr Lee was going to pocket some 1bn won ( pounds 720,000) donated by his followers. Most embarrassing of all for Mr Lee was that some of the money was in the form of bonds not due to mature until 1995 - well after the end of the world.

If you have not read this article, then either you are not an Independent reader, or the world did indeed end last night. Or both.