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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2529

Korean Buddhists Rally against 'pro-Christian bias.'

Seoul, 05 September, ( The Buddhists of South Korea strongly protested accusing President Lee Myung Bak and his administration of showing religious bias against Buddhists and favoring Christians.

South Korea by law is a secular state. Article 20 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea stipulates the prohibition of state religion, and the separation of religion and politics.
It was alleged that, since the inauguration of the new government, some of the high government officials and the President himself have been violating the Constitution as if intent upon turning the country into a Christian state. We strongly regret the government's physical suppression of the civil rights of peaceful assembly and demonstrations demanding the principle of democracy.

However due to the phenomenal rise in the size and power of the Christian community in recent decades, it has the Buddhist community here gripped by apprehension.

In the course of the last five decades of Korea’s industrialization and modernization, the role and size of Korea’s once-powerful Buddhist population has significantly declined.
Internally, not only is the Buddhist hierarchy torn by schisms and squabbles over control of the large financial assets involving temple properties like land and buildings, its failure to attract new converts through renewal has resulted in their growing marginalization.

Political observer pointed out that the present government adopts religious discrimination and gives following instances -

1. The President sent congratulatory messages via visual media to the prayer assembly in Busan City dedicated to "the dissolution of Buddhism in this country."

2. The President declared the restoration of the Cheonggye River in the downtown Seoul as the will of "Almighty God." While Mayor of Seoul, he likewise dedicated the city to "Almighty God."

3. The biased appointment of a disproportionate number of high government officials of Christian faith.

4. Exclusion of temples on internet maps by the government, while listing only churches.

5. Having police search the car of the Chief Executive of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

People of the world highly value the peaceful coexistence of diverse religions in the Republic of Korea.

Buddhist clergies of South Korea said , “We firmly believe that a major factor of such admirable achievement has been the Buddhist spirit of tolerance, and the great effort of the Order and devotees. However, as if to mock our tolerance and effort, the President has ignored the principle of freedom of religious belief since his inauguration.

As a mark of protest a massive rally was held on 27 August, in which over 200,000 lay Buddhists protested against the government’s “religious discrimination.”
Buddhists clergies demanded the firing of the National Police Director by holding him responsible for a number of developments they claimed indicated his religious bias. One was his call to evangelize the entire police force, he being an ardent Presbyterian churchgoer.
Another episode involved the riot policemen stopping and searching a temple abbot’s car, which they said was necessary to look for anti-US demonstrators hiding inside a Seoul temple compound.
In a fit of rage, one Buddhist monk has slashed his stomach with a razor blade. It was not a life-threatening wound, but the incident was enough to poison the atmosphere of the confrontation. The Buddhist clergy now vows to hold a new series of demonstrations across the country unless President Lee, himself a Presbyterian elder, issued a statement of apology. The Buddhists monks also demanded:

1 The formal apology of the President and the government.

2. Enactment of laws and regulations to prevent the discrimination of religion in the appointment of high government officials.

3. Strong measures to prevent religious discrimination in the government policy.

The Buddhists have also asked for the endorsement of other Buddhist Orders and organizations for our proclamation against the biased religious policies of the government. We also request to notify us your concurrence about our proclamation at your earliest convenience at the address below, and include a statement from your Order or organization supporting the harmony and solidarity of Korean Buddhism.

- Asian Tribune -

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