South Korea’s Buddhists concerned

The World

Since being sworn in as President last February, Lee has come under fire from many sides. Now the Buddhists of South Korea are joining in that criticism. Monks have accused the president of discriminating against other religions. They’ve even arranged thousands of colored lamps at their temple to spell the English word �Out.� The manager of the temple says the president is trying to turn South Korea into a Christian country. He says most of the officials in Lee’s cabinet are from his Christian Church, and when he was mayor of Seoul he once said that he offers the city to the Christian God. He also points out that major Buddhist temples have been left off official city maps while even small churches were added on. In August, Buddhists rallied in front of Seoul City Hall with thousands of supporters, and this weekend they’re planning an even bigger protest. Following the first demonstration, the president offered an apology. Lee has denied he holds any religious bias. The Buddhists are also demanding that activists charged during demonstrations this summer be pardoned and that Seoul’s Police Chief who is also Christian be replaced. This increased activism is an attempt by Buddhists to win back some of the influence they’ve lost in Korean society. This analyst believes that while the Buddhists have some legitimate gripes, he doesn’t see widespread discrimination. But he adds Korean Christians, even some in the government, have earned themselves a bad reputation and have been hostile to other religions. The National Human Rights Commission says they have not seen any indication that religious intolerance is on the rise. Worshipers at the Buddhist temple have mixed feelings on the topic.

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