My Journey of Recovery

wEver feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? Ever feel crushed and suffocated by the weight of your burdens? As a member of ubf, I felt crushed every single day for 24 years. No matter what I did, the burden was still there. The burden would not go away. Even when I left the intense daily scrutiny of a personal shepherd in order to pioneer a new ubf chapter, I could not escape the ever-present burden. I felt like the weight of the world was on my back. Yet I toiled onward, thinking I was a holy soldier for Jesus. I thought I was being a blessing to the world and pleasing to God. As I continue my journey of recovery from decades of ubf lifestyle, I am compelled to share some realizations I’ve come across so far.

Why do UBF members often feel so burdened?


I have been examining my time in ubf for several years now, including time while I was a ubf Director. I have identified 8 layers of burden that are stacked onto you in ubf as the years go by. These burdens add up. The picture to the right is my visualization of the layers. My recovery from the ubf system has taken me through each of these layers. I had to navigate my way through each layer without losing my faith in Jesus and my hope in God.

What does UBF look like for a member?


When you are on the bottom of the stack, looking up, you first see your own personal challenges. You do this because the ubf system is an “incurvatus in se” set of beliefs and practices. Your problems are always in front of you weekly and daily. You may sense the other layers and you certainly feel their weight, but you never quite see them clearly. Note that the Confucian values layer is hidden from sight.

Why do some observers see a Korean Christian organization?


From the outside however, looking in, people typically see just some combination of Evangelical Christianity, Bible study and Korean culture. They can’t usually see the other layers, but often can sense the layers are there. It is easy then to attribute any “oddities” in ubf as part of the Korean culture. Korean culture might seem to be a major influence but in reality it is just a thin layer. The thick layers of ubf behavior and ideology are hidden from view until one digs deeper.

Thoughts, questions, reactions?

This article is intentionally brief. Thinking through these things has helped my recovery immensely. I am now set free through the grace of Jesus found at the cross and the living hope found at the empty tomb. The burden is gone. The gospel Jesus preached has liberated me from this system. I would love to hear your honest thoughts and questions.


  1. I’ll say one thing, UBF looks like a lot of work. The burdening of people from the layers is indeed. Top it off with the meetings to confirm that you are where you say you are on your list of to do’s in ministry and your so-called Christian life as a UBF shepherd.

  2. sheepherd1

    “UBF looks like a lot of work”

    gc, thanks for the article. There are a lot of works in UBF that it becomes the evidence of growth and faithfulness to Jesus. When someone stops doing the works, one is called lazy and that person should repent of his\her laziness. UBFers put their works so much emphasizes that it becomes the measurement of their success in their Christian life.

  3. Thanks Brian. Yeah, ubf is complex because sin makes us complicated. But whenever there are problems, it is ALWAYS because the gospel is not deeply or meaningfully applied or understood, or that the gospel is under-applied, usually by legalisms (in UBF’s case) or liberalisms.

    For ONLY the gospel of grace (Ac 20:24) has the power (Rom 1:16) to truly change and transform us from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18). Only the gospel can truly break through and shine brightly to expose the sin of UBF or of any person or church (2 Cor 4:4-6).

  4. Mark Mederich

    well said

    • Sound very similar! At the same I suppose the ICC group couldn’t imagine the power of Confucius that’s why ICC was like a kindergarten compared to ubf. I suppose USSR also couldn’t imagine what North Korea would look like if they add to the communist idea some of Confucius.

      So ICC + Confucius = ubf
      Communism + Confucius = North Korea

      And so, ubf – ICC = North Korea – communism

      ubf = North Korea – communism + ICC

  5. This series describes what former ubf members have been saying for decades:

    Control-oriented Leadership:
    Profile of an abusive church (part 1 of 8)

    Manipulation of members:
    Profile of an abusive church (part 2 of 8)

    Rigid lifestyle:
    Profile of an abusive church (part 3 of 8)

    Frequent name changes:
    Profile of an abusive church (part 4 of 8)

    Denouncing other churches:
    Profile of an abusive church (part 5 of 8)

    Persecution complex:
    Profile of an abusive church (part 6 of 8)

    Targeting young adults primarily:
    Profile of an abusive church (part 7 of 8)

    Painful exit process:
    Profile of an abusive church (part 8 of 8)

    University Bible Fellowship as of 2013 scores 8 of 8 in this series.

    [If you don’t think ubf changes it name often as in part 4, do you realize ubf used to be called “University Bible Research Society” in Korea before it came to North America? And did you realize how many other names ubf goes by on campuses and elsewhere?]

  6. Happy new year everyone! Of course no new year at ubf would be complete without some Wikipedia vandalization. Someone from Korea removed some parts of the ubf Wikipedia article that they didn’t like:

    ubf wiki article vandalization by someone in South Korea

    • forestsfailyou

      In my youth I would go around changing all the CE and BCE into AD and BC on wikipedia. It kept me off the streets.

  7. Hey everyone, since people continue to contact me about once a month for help processing their time spent living out the ubf lifestyle, I have created a hidden Facebook page for private discussions about recovering and rebuilding your life. This month 2 people contacted me.

    This replaces the “subfix” website I had setup earlier. That was too much to maintain. The private Facebook page should be a better platform for such discussions.

    If you are in need of help rebuilding your life after ubf, I gladly welcome your thoughts. Just contact me on any of my websites or post here and I’ll respond.

    I find that even after 4 years, there can be trauma triggers, panic attacks, nightmares or other PTSD-like symptoms. It takes time and many friends to regain your sense of healthy self-esteem and to rebuild your life in a healthy way after having been entangled by KOPAHN ideology.

    • It also takes time to recover financially. We made many stupid mistakes in the financial realm. Just this week we closed one of the long-standing ubf-related financial problems. SO GLAD to be free of this entanglement!

  8. The graphic you posted and your explanation is spot on BrianK.

    However, looking back some people were more keen than I was and they were able to see through the darkness that I initially could not – may God bless them.

    While I was doing my observership in the hospital – I was still “green” to the UBF cult/abuse culture. So like a good shepherd, I would try to evangelize and bring at least 1 “sheep” to Sunday per week… [many members of that cult who attended Friday meeting are witnesses] as I often shared my disappointments when a prospective bible students would stop attending and say to me… “sorry I don’t want to attend your church it seems like a cult. Something just doesn’t seem right” they would say to me.

    I still can’t believe it took me this long to see the truth of that dangerous cult. A question I often struggle with is – why couldn’t I see?

    I still struggle with many things these days… especially the guilt I feel over the people I introduced into that cult who stayed (even if they stayed for a short while) I also feel guilty for those who suffered through the racism, cultural ethnocentrism, the abuse… all of which I told was necessary UBF training.

    I thank God for helping to escape that cult and putting me far far away from those people and that group. I also thank God for this site and the friends I have made. May God bless you all and protect you all!

    • Here are some warning signs of a cult that I found in NYUBF

      Preventing contact with outsiders, ex-members, and even certain fellow members of the dysfunctional cult.

      Breaking up couples and families to gain power over individuals and prevent coalitions that could more effectively criticize unsound, corrupt leadership. Rigid isolating of cult members in an exclusive “family” away from their relatives and friends outside the cult so that the cult becomes the sole source for support, self-esteem and interpersonal connection. Isolating cult members from other members , even for short periods, in solitary confinement or quarantine to break them down and manipulate their views/behaviors.

      Legalistic obsession with the organizations rules. Enslavement to authoritarian, military-style organization and procedure. Of course, every group needs guidelines and rules, but when the form of the religion becomes more important than authentic spiritual experience, the group is in trouble and idolatry is a danger.

      Series of initiations that create intrigue and stratify group into levels with higher, elite superiors outranking inferior, lower members. Because of this I witnessed an enormous amount of abuse.

      Enforcement of conformity in apparel and external behavior in order to look like everyone else speak like everyone else and eat like everyone else [if you dress a certain way, use Korean words, go to college, write your testimony every week, obey the higher-ups, attend SWS and eat Korean food] God loves you.

      Confusion tactics by changing the names for members [they tried to change my identity by giving me a Korean name], this can be part of an overall unhealthy cult strategy to amplify insider/outsider dichotomies, destroy autonomy and insure compliance.

      Intellectual parochialism or isolation from other worldviews; censorship or control of what people read [if it is not UBF do not read it]; prevention of studying sacred texts from other traditions or visiting other genuine churches or listening to non-UBF sermons. A healthy spiritual group is open to spiritual truth from other sources.

      An obsession with school grades and Gods love – If you get an “A” you are loved by God but if you get a “C” God does not love you because you did not try hard enough.

      UBF folklore a danger with dysfunctional cults is their frequent emphasis on leader worship, mythical thinking and on bizarre, unverifiable claims that can’t be consensually validated by rational persons. I heard ridiculous claims about the founder SL – he could read minds, he had the entire bible memorized, he could tell you the future, he was next to Apostle Paul in heaven etc…

      Blind obedience to harmful or unwise directives from on high. Abusive, domineering top-dog leadership. “We can convince them that sexual abuse never happened…”

      and much more!!!

  9. cm,

    Your list is rather good, and matches what dozens of us saw in Toledo UBF. In regard to your question, “why couldn’t I see?”, I have some thoughts.

    I think this depends on how a person is introduced to ubf. For me, I was introduced to ubf by one person on campus one sunny afternoon while I was dealing with my father’s ALS illness. ubf appeared to me as a nice little family who cares only about Bible study.

    But the dark side of ubf was kept hidden. It was only due to the grace of God that I got to see things not meant for me to be seen. And it was the Holy Spirit who finally opened my eyes. And furthermore it was my own connecting the dots that woke me up and led me to decide to leave this Bible cult.

    It is indeed so hard to see because the ruse maintained at ubf is so crafty. The layers of burden are many and such burden is very difficult to navigate.

    This all becomes much more clear when you have all the facts. That was the main thing keeping the KOPAHN ruse going at ubf–not many had all the facts. Now we can all connect with each other instantly and globally. We can now put the pieces of the puzzle together.

    I will be doing some of that in an upcoming article where I respond to the recent CT article reviewing the “Spirit moves west” apologetic book.