Multiple TikTokers and Redditors have posted about their experiences being approached by a “cult” attempting to recruit them in Melbourne’s CBD. So what is this so-called cult and is this a brand new phenomenon? Let’s investigate.

The latest batch of documented recruitment attempts began with a Reddit post titled “Church/cult recruiters in Melbourne Central. DO NOT ENGAGE.” The post was published around May.

In it, the author details interactions they had with members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. The church is the Australian branch of a religious organisation based in South Korea.

It’s an edge-of-your-seat piece of writing tied together by a very satisfying finale. Have a read.

Church/cult recruiters in Melbourne Central. DO NOT ENGAGE. from melbourne

Fast-forward to the present day and multiple TikTokers have posted about their own, near-identical interactions with these supposed cult members in Melbourne.

A few of the TikToks have even used the original Reddit post as the video’s green screen. Here’s a selection that were published this past week.

@junclarekim

@dimsims222 I couldn’t stitch bUT THIS HAPPENED TO ME IN 2018. THEY’VE BEEN AT IT FOR 4 YEARS. If you happen to get into a convo with them just say you’re running late and BOLT #melbournecult #melbournechurch #cultchurch #churchcult #melbournecentral #melbournecentralstation #melbournecbd #cult #victoria #victoriancult #shincheonji #reddit #melbournefyp #staysafe #staysafeladies

♬ original sound – Jun Kim

@hillainbarrr

Replying to @zakkyy97 me encounter with Cult Recruiters… #fyp #cult #storytime #student #uni #melbourne #australia

♬ original sound – Hilla Inbar

@hosnathoms Replying to @hosnathoms part 1 #fyp #scj #shincheonji #shincheojicult #melbourne ♬ original sound – HosnathomS

Again, the experiences of these Melbourne TikTokers shared common threads.

Examples include: The alleged cult members wanting to know if the TikTokers were at school/uni, wanting to grab a coffee as a sort of introductory meeting, and being super unclear about whether they were Melbourne locals or not.

Very odd.

It’s like, how can you not know if you’re from Melbourne? It says it right there on your NGV tote bag.

If you dig a little further back on TikTok, more cult interactions are documented from the past few months featuring many of the same details.

@dimsims222

no disrespect to any religion but this is intriguing #Victoria #Melbourne #cults #churchcult

♬ Lo-fi hip hop – NAO-K

@lachiekoh

#stitch with @lachiekoh If you’re from Footscray no disrespect #koreancult #melbourne #melbournecentral

♬ original sound – Lachie Koh

@imlisatran

Name of cult is Shincheonji. And lesson is don’t give restaurant recommendations lmao #fyp #foryoupage #cult #southkoreancult #emporium #melbourne #rmit

♬ original sound – Lisa Tran

This isn’t the first time the Shincheonji Church of Jesus has made headlines in Australia.

In fact, PEDESTRIAN.TV covered the first Melbourne cult approach TikTok in May 2021. You can read the full article here. It’s a bloody wild ride.

The ABC wrote a detailed profile on the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in 2021.

It also produced a great piece of visual journalism called “I think I’ve accidentally joined a cult” which you can suss out by clicking here.

VICE even shot a mini-documentary on the church in its country of origin. The doco estimates there are “over 250,000 Shincheonji Church followers within South Korea and internationally.”

At the end of the day, we can all agree it’s a tad creepy when strangers approach you randomly on the street, asking you questions and being ambiguous about whether they’re locals or not.

Couple this with the fact their end goal is to recruit you into a religion? It’s a no from me.

If these sorts of interactions aren’t your vibe, perhaps be extra vigilant if you’re commuting through Melbourne Central.

Stay safe out there, mates.

Image: TikTok @hillainbarrr @junclarekim @ lachiekoh