Skip to comments.buddhism under siege in Korea
Posted on 06/20/2004 12:16:15 PM PDT by theladyfromjersey
They Seek to Destroy Us
Temples in Flames Note: Please view with MS Explorer to read accurately the special characters for pronounciation of Korean words. I wrote the following article with the assistance of my wife Jenny Lim in the the spring of 1996 shortly after arson attacks on Buddhist temples in Suyuri section of northern Seoul. I presented it at a panel entitled "Buddhist and Christian Cooperation for Social Action in Korea" which I organized and moderated for the 1996 Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies Conference "Socially Engaged Buddhism and Christianity" hosted by Depaul University in Chicago.
The panel was composed of Venerable Shin Bop Ta, abbot of Eunhaesa Monastery and chairman of the One Korea Movement; Venerable Pomnyun, leader of the Join Together Society and the Buddhist Academy for Ecological Awakening; Professor Kim Kyong Jae of Hanshin University, an ordained minister of the Korean Presbyterian Church and author of Christianity and the Encounter of Asian Religions (Bockencentrum, 1994); and Professor Chung Hyun-Kyung, a eco-feminist liberation theologian who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Frank M. Tedesco presented the focal paper reproduced below.
The Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies was so moved by the revelation of fire bombings of Buddhist temples and tensions between the faiths in Korea that officially issued a Statement of Concern and Support for Korean Buddhists at the end of the meeting which was endorsed with signatures by hundreds of the participants at the conference. The SBCS has set up a fund to redress the destruction.
Unfortunately attacks on Buddhist sanctuaries have continued to be perpetrated throughout the country (1998). Protests and demands for justice within the Buddhist community seem to have inspired reflection among some liberal Protestant leaders in Korea who have apologized publicly for the acts of extremists who call themselves "Christians".
QUESTIONS FOR BUDDHIST AND CHRISTIAN COOPERATION IN KOREA Frank M. Tedesco
1. Introduction: Religious Freedom in Korea
The Korean peninsula is known throughout the world for the stark bifurcation between the communist North and the capitalist South. North Korea (DPRK) is one of the most closed societies in the world where the public is prohibited access to international communication. Reports tell us that the North is a starving totalitarian state where the people have no freedom or civil rights and where the thought of the Great Leaders Kim Il Sung and his heir Kim Jong Il dominates all aspects of life like a ultra-nationalist cult. The major institutionalized religions of the North- Buddhism, Christianity and Chondogyo- have been subject to purges and are strictly subordinated to the state and its all pervasive ideology of Juche (self-reliance). Authentic interreligious dialogue and cooperation is a non-issue except for praise of the Great Leader. Survival of the original religious impulses and authentic traditions of the North is at stake after nearly fifty years of political repression. What is happening in the South?
South Korea (ROK), in contrast, is renowned as a economic superstar, an Asian industrial dragon, who rose from the devastation of the Korean War to host the very successful 1988 Olympics and join the club of developed nations in the OECD in record time. South Korea, too, has had its authoritarian leaders we know well (Rhee, Park, Chun, Roh...), but none have been so idolized like the father and son duo in the North. Quite the contrary, retired dictators in the South have been denounced as scoundrels and put behind bars for corruption in a sudden wave of democratic reforms propelled by the freely elected President Kim Young Sam, a Presbyterian elder and former dissident, despite their reputed leadership through the economic boom of the eighties.
A tradition of authoritarianism notwithstanding, institutionalized religions have fared much better in South Korea than in the North since the Korean War. Strongly influenced by Western democratic political ideals since the founding of the ROK government in 1948, the present Constitution of the Republic of Korea (Sixth Republic, 1987) guarantees privacy of correspondence and freedom of religion, conscience, speech, press, assembly and equality before the law regardless of religion. Free to follow their religious predilections without serious constraints on their behavior for the most part, the religious world of Korea is very rich. There is a wide diversity of religious options open to "spiritual seekers" and "society seekers" alike. They may choose from the oldest native and traditional folk and shaman beliefs and practices (nature worship and national foundation myths included) or they may investigate the over 1600 year old Buddhist tradition (and Confucianism if it is considered a religion). They may also opt for the relatively 'new' indigenous religions of Chondogyo and Won Buddhism and others or they may, as so many have done since the Korean War, embrace the recently introduced Western faiths of Catholicism and Protestantism with their various orders and permutations.
While South Koreans are free to follow whatever religion they wish, according to government statistics, only 54% of the population (43 million) in 1991 claim religious affiliation. Of this 54%, about 12 million identify themselves as Buddhist (51%), about 8 million as Protestant (34%), 2.5 million as Catholic (11%), roughly 2 % as Confucian and 2% others. The National Statistics Office indicates that Buddhists are the fastest growing segment of the religious population in Korea. Buddhists have grown from 46.9% of the religious population in 1985 to 51.2% in 1991 while the Protestant population has declined 3.3% and Catholics 0.2%.
The figures cited above vary widely from those published in the Religious Yearbook 1995 of a Protestant research group. This source estimates that Korea has "as many as 18 million Christians, or 41% of the population." Protestant and Methodist denominations account for the majority of the Christians. Following Shim, Jae Hoon in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the handbook says that the "total number of South Korean Protestants slipped O.4% to 15 million between 1991 and 1994, a sharp contrast to the growth of previous decades. The Roman Catholic Church says it has continued to expand, to 3.5 million adherents, but church officials say the growth rate slowed to 3.4% last year, down from 6.3% in 1991." We would like to add that the number of believers most commonly claimed on banners during demonstrations by Buddhist activists and in news by the Buddhist press is 20 million. The complex issues of questionnaire design and survey methodology cannot be elaborated on here but we will assume that there is a rough balance between Christians and Buddhists throughout the Korean population with about half the total populace claiming no strong religious affiliation. There is no other country in the world where these two religions are so equally represented in the general population.
2. Early Protestant Missionary Attitude toward Buddhism in Korea
Can we not learn something more about the nature of these major traditions in Korea by observing their interactions in close juxtaposition, millions of believers living in the same communities side by side? What may we expect for the future of Eastern and Western interreligious dialogue? No! Interdependent religious dialogue? No! Interdependent religious co-habitation, as our world grows closer and closer? How do Christians and Buddhists get along in Korea today? And how does their present relationship compare with what we know about Korea at the beginning of this century? What does this mean for the challenges the Korean people will face in the immediate future? And the rest of the world?
"Except for the religiously exclusivistic attitudes upheld by the vast majority of present day Korean Christians", Koreans were traditionally "generally flexible towards different faiths" states Professor Oh Kangnam in a recent article. He quotes a passage from an American missionary Homer Hulbert who went to Korea in 1886 to describe the Korean "eclectic or pluralistic attitude" which is "now hardly found among many Koreans, especially among Korean Christian leaders and their followers." Hulbert wrote : "...the reader must ever bear in mind that in every Korean mind there is a jumble of the whole, that there is no antagonism between the different cults... As a general thing, we may say that the all-round Korean will be a Confucian when in society, a Buddhist when he philosophises and a spirit worshipper when he is in trouble."
"A jumble of the whole... there is no antagonism between the cults!" Putting this insulting judgment aside, there is an element of surprise at the novelty (to Hulbert the missionary at least) that there is no conflict among the different belief systems in traditional Korea at the time of the advent of his missionary work. The religions seem to have co-existed in peace. Hulbert went to Korea at the end of the Yi Dynasty. The Confucian authorities had long ago driven Buddhist monks from the cities and into the mountains and controlled the government and all positions of influence in education, commerce and the military. The Buddhist sangha was at its nadir in Korean history. Shamanism, folk Buddhism and indigenous beliefs were the domain of the majority of the people - the farmers and women - but they were relatively powerless and also subordinate to Confucian men. Korea was just on the brink of defending itself against the political and cultural assault of Japanese colonial aggression which was to last until 1945.
Into this relatively placid, if not somewhat depressed, plural religious milieu entered Western missionaries with their undisguised goal to convert all Koreans to Christ, "forcing its way in after a fight of centuries," according to missionary scholar Charles Allen Clark. One of the most articulate and erudite among the American missionaries, Dr. C. A. Clark, author of the classic Religions of Old Korea, was a missionary in Korea for twenty eight years at the beginning of this century. Clark delivered lectures on Korean religion at a number of theological schools in the United States beginning with the Princeton Theological Lectures of 1921.
Clark's observations of religious life in Korea were very perceptive and informed with much reading in comparative religion of his day and reflections on religions in other parts of Asia where he traveled. He was convinced that his Christianity was the culmination of all the imperfect faiths "in various stages of mental and spiritual development" which had preceded it in Asia. Reviewing the history of religion in Korea, he saw the "religions of old Korea destined to pass away to make room for brighter things."
Clark sounded a death knell for Buddhism in Korea and damned it with mixed praise in the process. His concluding paragraphs on Buddhism from his classic book on Korean religions are worth citing for the attitude toward Buddhism they reveal. This, too, was taught and transmitted to Korean converts of the "modern" Western faith both in Korea and in seminaries in the United States.
Buddha's sun seems to be setting in Korea. Korea owes it a debt of gratitude. it came to Korea in 372 AD, and was vastly superior to the degraded spirit worship and Shamanism which it found. It gave Korea a moral code, more or less defective yet infinitely better than nothing. It has collaborated with Confucianism all down the ages, giving "sanctions" to make even Confucian ethics operative. It gave education of a sort and stood for education always. It has always had faults, glaring ones, but it also had a contribution to make to Korean life and culture in those dim ages of the past. Its sun rose in 372. It reached its zenith in the Koryu Age. It has steadily gone down ever since. Buddhism seems to have no message for the present age. Efforts will be made to keep it alive. It will not die all at once, but 'Ichabod' seems to have been written over it, and it must go.
As the sun of Buddhism sets, it should be a joy to all lovers of Korea that a greater Sun of Righteousness has arisen to give light suitable to this new day. May the Buddhists themselves soon come to see that a Messiah greater than Miryuck has come, a Savior more real than Amida, a compassionate Friend Who loves more than Kwanseieum or Chijang, and Who has power far all that of Taiseiji! Christianity coming now can thank Buddhism for making all these ideas familiar to the whole people, and for making it easier for them to receive them. May the whole land accept this new, true statement of those ideas as eagerly as it did the Buddhism in the Koryu Age, and may the whole people become one in serving Christ, our King! Our revered elder brother, wise and all-knowing thankful teacher, who loves us and our nation more than we do ourselves, Clark intoned the last words at the funeral of Korean Buddhism, he hopefully assumed! Anachronistic as Clark's remarks may appear in this age of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, the self-righteous and anti-Buddhist sentiments he expressed unfortunately still prevail in Korea today.
3. Contemporary Protestantism in Korea and Interreligious Dialogue
A victim of this exclusivistic and imperialistic ideology was Dr. Pyôn Sôn-hwan, the late former president of the Methodist Seminary in Seoul, who was dismissed from the presidency of his school and also deprived of his professorship and ministerial privileges in 1992. He was virtually excommunicated from the church "mainly because of his sympathetic understanding toward other religions, particularly toward Buddhism. When he stated to the effect that there is salvation outside the church, he was severely criticized by his fellow Christians from almost every denomination in Korea."
Dr. Pyôn was the leading figure in Buddhist-Christian dialogue in Korea until his death in 1995. He was a frequent participant in international Buddhist conferences as well as Buddhist-Christian dialogue meetings such as at the Academy House in Seoul. He demonstrated in his own life the kind of personal honesty, openness, modesty and courage which is needed to make interreligious dialogue more than a pleasant academic exercise but a living interactive reality with others of different faiths.
The last meetings I had with Dr. Pyôn included an unexpected encounter on the grounds of Chogyesa Temple in Seoul in 1994 during the demonstrations of the reformist sangha to oust the former corrupt administrative head of the Chogye Order headquarters Sô Ûi-hyôn. We took 'refuge' in Venerable Bopta's One Korea Buddhist reunification movement office when the action at the Order's Headquarters seemed at a lull and it began to rain. We were both impressed with Ven. Bopta's North Korean experiences and his insights into Buddhism there. Our last meeting was at the Academy House when the famous Vietnamese peace activist Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh was invited to speak with a group of Christian leaders and demonstrate his form of mindful walking meditation (in the rain!) in April, 1995.
In an important article published in the spring of 1995 in Tabo, the quarterly journal of the Korean Buddhism Promotion Foundation, Dr. Pyôn addressed the United Nations 1995 announcement of the Year of Tolerance and Understanding. The UN called upon religious followers of the globe to play a decisive role in building a brighter future for the world by denouncing and eliminating any form of intolerance and discrimination caused by differences in religions and doctrines. Why is it, he asked, that while peace seemed to made significant progress in the Middle East with the truce between the Israelis and the Palestinian guerrillas, that while the Cold War between East and West seemed at an end, that even while the Roman Catholic Church had declared the decision of the Inquisition on Galileo was wrong, that while the troubles in Ireland might be over, why was there still no progress in dissolving tensions and making true peace between North and South Korea at the DMZ? And why is Christianity in Korea provoking public condemnation because of the missionary work of its aggressive, conversion-oriented Christian leaders who are following extremely conservative and fundamentalist theology from the States? Rev. Pyôn quipped "that Korea, once known as 'the land of the morning calm' was quickly becoming the 'land of the evening noise' or worse yet the 'land of the morning and evening noise' because of fanatical Christians who engage in combative conversion-hungry missionary work. Nothing is wrong with propagation or missionary work itself, only the exclusive and obsolete method that slanders and condemns other religions," he wrote. Dr. Pyôn then went on to cite newspaper and magazine reports to illustrate the breath and magnitude of insults and outright slander perpetrated against Buddhists by zealous Christians.
A more extensive listing of incidents against Buddhism including over twenty serious arson attacks against temples in the last fifteen years will be enumerated in the next section. Five arson attacks against temples in Suyudong, Seoul just prior to the year's (1996) Buddha's Birthday celebration has been the primary impetus for this compilation. Three assaults were made on the Seoul International Zen Center at Hwagyesa, the home monastery of one of Korea's major Buddhist leaders in interreligious dialogue and practice, world famous Zen Master Seung Sahn. Two closely neighboring temples were even more seriously victimized; a bell tower housing religious instruments was destroyed at Samsông-Am up the mountain from Hwagyesa and two extraordinary traditional Dharma Halls were burnt to the ground at Pônwon Chôngsa, cost: US $5.6 million. The latter two temples were attacked just past midnight the same night (April 20). The International Zen Center at Hwagyesa attacked repeatedly three times within three weeks of the April 20 catastrophes, the first time on April 21st! We must be careful to point out that no one has been positively identified, arrested or definitely associated with any of these crimes as of this writing. We have interviewed the chief of police involved who is actively pursuing the cases and he concurs with general public opinion that it is probable that a fanatical or mentally disturbed religious extremist is connected with the incidents based on the nature of the crimes and the pattern of successful investigations and arrests in other cases of Buddhist temple burnings. These incidents may never be resolved but they have opened the topic of religious violence in Korea which should not be suppressed, slighted or ignored again.
4. Questions for Buddhists and Christians in Korea
Occasions of insults and violent assaults against Buddhist teachings and Buddhist images and places of worship, including the homes of Buddhist clergy in Korea like those cited above, had very little notice in the local or national press or other media in Korea. Why is this? Does someone need to be hurt or killed before it's "news?" They have only been reported in the small, private Buddhist press for the most part but almost ignored by larger agencies? Is there a policy to quash reports of incidents of religious conflict or attacks against Buddhists in order to keep a lid on the events?Are the incidents so sensitive that certain authorities fear a backlash from an informed Buddhist constituency?
Why aren't Korean Buddhists themselves more assertive about rectifying the ill treatment they have been receiving from certain factions within Korea? Why hasn't the Chogye Order Headquarters published a policy statement about this issue? Why haven't more liberal Korean Christian leaders and congregations (including Catholics) extended sympathy and support to Buddhists who have been victimized by religious extremists or unknown assailants? If such basic neighborly concern is truly missing in the Korean religious world, isn't it time to actively do something about it and bridge the icy chasm of indifference which has kept Koreans separate and isolated from each other within their own small country? Who can blame the other for their aloof silence? Radical students and professors in South Korea righteously blame the United States and the USSR for the painful division of their country at the end of World War II. Can they really blame the superpowers for the religious tensions and alienation their own people perpetuate in the South?
These questions arise from a hope that the Korean Buddhist and Christian communities can help those of us who care about Korea get a clearer sense how inter-religious cooperation for effective social action can be implemented in Korea and other parts of Asia. A good place to begin is at the beginning. Just what is going on in Korea? Christians and Buddhists look at each other suspiciously over stony walls. Like the new tall buildings which have gone up everywhere in Seoul (and have come crashing down like Sampoong Department Store!), they wear a thin veneer of stone that hides a tempest of activity within. Can we not acknowledge this simple fact and recognize that we are all in our own private way trying to make sense of this confusing and ever more crowded and polluted world? Is it "ecologically correct" to pretend that we can really separate ourselves from others? An "ecological awakening" to our interconnectedness is in order. Don't we share the results of our karma and our interdependence with the natural world around us?
Buddhists and Christians alike need to seriously consider the description of the Christian critique of Buddhism which was written by Venerable Chi Myong in 1990. Dr. Pyôn selected his words as representative of a wise Buddhist response to the widespread Christian challenges and attacks. It can be summarized as follows.
Many Korean Christians claim :
1) Buddhism is superstition 2) Buddhism is idol worship 3) Jesus is God but Shakyamuni is (was) a human being 4) Buddhism is too difficult to understand. It is a philosophy, not a religion. Belief in Jesus is easy to understand and to do 5) Buddhism is baseless. It has no substance at its root. It is responsible for the wrongdoings of its monks and nuns. 6) Buddhism is an evil religion which must be eradicated from the face of the earth.
In response to these hateful accusations Ven. Chi Myông encourages people to:
1) Deal with clannish attacks perpetrated by followers of other religions (Face them. Do not ignore them. Engage them). 2) Set up an organization(s) to dissolve hostility and show bodhisattva action. 3) Eliminate one's own exclusivistic and aggressive inclinations. Fighting against violence is against Buddha's teachings. Refrain from habitual, nervous reactions.Practice the bodhisattva spirit in silence with friendliness without angry retorts. Avoid fighting provocateurs who want to see Buddhism disappear from earth. And the outraged Dr. Pyôn adds in aggravation: "People who damage and desecrate Buddhism. People who are bound to the letters of bible and church. Christian fanatics who attempt to destroy their own cultural assets and smash their own traditional religion. Puppet-like pseudo-Christians. These people are the enemy of the open democratic society toward which our nation is striving."
5. Steps toward Cooperation
In the face of the strong conservative Christian resistance which we have delineated above, and the caution of Buddhists who suspect a conversion agenda under the guise of dialogue, there yet occurs some very encouraging cooperative activities among religious leaders and their followers in Korea.
Most recently in the summer 1996 was the Religious Leaders' Pilgrimage for National Reunification which marched through eleven cities in South Korea from June 25 to July 4, 1996 and involved about 3,000 clergy in all. This was the first time that Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists and Won Buddhists actually worked together and walked together for a greater cause beyond mere ceremonial photo opportunities of inter-religious harmony and academic discourse. A very positive result of this pilgrimage was the establishment of nine new city branches of the Religious Council for National Reconciliation and Reunification (Chonggyo-in Hyôp-ûi Hoe) outside of Seoul.
We must also mention the activities of the Korean Conference on Religion and Peace (KCRP) which was originally initiated in 1965 as the Association of Korean Religionists. The present KCRP is comprised of members from the six major faiths in Korea: Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Won Buddhism and Chondogyo. The former AKR includes members from new religions like the Chonrigyo, Taejongyo and the T'ongilgyo (Unification Church) but not the Protestant and Catholic churches. The Christian members withdrew because they chose not to share in the organization with the Unification Church.
According to Dr. Kim Sunggon, a professor at Youngsan Won Buddhist Seminary, both the AKR and the KCRP "aim at improving mutual understanding and creating a better society by cooperation among religions, but there is no dialogue and cooperation between these two interfaith organizations. What an irony this is!" Inter-religious organizations must stand for more than theoretical understanding among the religions. Meetings and proclamations and books are not enough. The proof of an organization's effectiveness is in its ability to create new harmony among religious communities who hitherto were disinterested on account of beliefs in their own supremacy.
Perhaps Buddhism's great virtue in interreligious dialogue and cooperation is that it already had an acceptance of diversity of opinion and experience about the mental life of man from the inception of the religion with Shakyamuni. From the beginning, it never had to try to bridge differences with other paths since it had already recognized them from the beginning. This is its great "pangp'yôn" (upaya), expedient means of teaching Buddhist truths.
There are many serious issues in Korea to unite Christians and Buddhists. National reunification and environmental issues are critical without exception for the entire population of Korea. Resolution of these issues will require more than cosmetic treatment. The lives of all Korean people are at stake. Buddhist and Christian cooperation can provide an atmosphere for more openness and communication at the governmental level. Religious leaders among the Buddhists and Christians in Korea can make a difference in the course of Korean history as they have in the past as during the Independence Movement. But they should come together not just because they face a common enemy but because they realize their mutual interdependence and shared human concerns. Religions need not lose their identity when in dialogue and cooperation. They can demonstrate the greatest wisdom, love and compassion they are capable of when they move closer to their neighbors with whom they live. As the "sleeping wisdom" of modern Korean Buddhism awakens, it will be in a stronger position to share its virtues with people of all faiths in Korea and lead their mutually cooperative efforts for social concord.
An English and French version of this article can be viewed at a website constructed by Eric Rommeleure at a Zen Studies site in Paris.
Buddhism under Siege 1982-1996: A Chronology of Fifteen Years of Incidents Against Buddhism in South Korea The following is an incomplete listing of defamations, acts of vandalism and arson attacks against Buddhist temples and facilities in South Korea which have occurred since 1982 and which have earned the attention of the news media and the dismay of the Buddhist population in the country.
Buddhism under Siege 1982-1996 : Fifteen Years of Incidents Against Buddhism in South Korea including at least twenty temples or Buddhist shrines seriously damaged or totally destroyed by arson since 1986.
Sources : Newspapers : Dong A Ilbo daily newspaper (Seoul), May 2, 1990, p. 1 Pulgyo Shinmun weekly newspaper (Seoul), May 28, 1996, p. 4 Pôp Po Shinmun weekly newspaper (Seoul), May 15, 1996 Hyôndae Pulgyo weekly newspaper (Seoul), May 22, 1996 Kitokkyo Shinmun weekly newspaper (Seoul), July, 1996 advertisement (Other major dailies and such weeklies as the Haedong Pulgyo and regional papers have not been consulted at this time.)
Reports : We have also corroborated and compared reports of incidents with records maintained in the headquarters of the Chogye Order in Seoul and the official written police report on the incidents at Hwagyesa, Pônwôn Chôngsa and Samsông Am (Hermitage).
TV : A cable TV report (BTN) of the Pônwôn Chôngsa and Samsông Am incidents was also consulted.
(The modified McCune-Reischauer system of transliteration as appears in the Korea Journal of the Korean National Commission for Unesco is utilized for Korean names)
1982 May.A man by the name of Myông Chinhong organizes religious gatherings in Seoul to publicly denounce Buddhism. He erects a banner "Jesus Heaven, Buddhism Hell!" He claims to have once been a Buddhist monk who has "repented," though no records can be found to support the claim of his ordination. Using this claim, he puts up posters claiming: "A Dharma Hall is a hall of demons."
1983 March 1. During a Christian revival meeting held on the occasion of Korean Independence Day observations, a woman falsely claims to have been the daughter of a famous Zen master and revered national independence hero, Paek Yongsông. She makes statements denouncing Buddhism.
1984 February. Red crucifixes are painted on priceless temple wall paintings at Muryangsa Temple and Ilsônsa on Samgaksan Mountain outside Seoul. Dirt is smeared on the paintings and on a statue of the Buddha located outside one of the temples. A large ancient carving of the Buddha chiselled into stone is damaged with axe-like instruments.
May. Ignoring the pleas of Buddhist leaders, the Roman Catholic Church invites Pope John Paul II to visit South Korea to celebrate the bicentennial of the church in Korea. This event happens to fall during the annual national Buddha's Birthday holiday celebrations. Because it is the first ever visit of a Roman pontiff to South Korea, and because the Vatican announces that 93 Koreans and 10 French missionary martyrs will be beatified as saints during the visit, the visit becomes a major national event. It is the first time that a canonization ceremony is held outside of Rome and the largest number ever canonized at one time. This ceremony gives Korea the fourth largest number of Catholic saints in the world. When the Pope tours the country, in the days immediately preceding and during Buddha's Birthday, there are immense traffic jams which diminish attendance at Buddhist events in several key cities. Buddhist leaders protest the timing of the event as "disrespectful" and "in bad taste" because the Korean and Roman Catholic Churches schedule the mass beatification ceremonies to take place during Buddha's Birthday celebrations, a day sacred to Buddhists and a national holiday.
November. In an official Korean textbook, Buddhism is called " a fading religion."
1985 April. Four major daily newspapers accept and publish advertisements which assert that the content of the Buddhist scriptures are "selfish" in intent.
May. A Protestant minister named Kim Jingyu publicly claims to have once been an ordained monk in the Chogye Order. Though there is no record of his ever having been a Buddhist monk, he hangs up banners which read "Why I Became a Protestant Minister," and organizes meetings to denounce the Buddhist faith.
September. An individual by the name of Kim Sônghwa organizes a series of mass gatherings to denounce Buddhism in the cities of Pusan, Taegu, Kwangju, and Taejon. (This individual and his wife Kim Mija regularly advertise their mission to convert the "25 million Buddhists of Korea" in the Christian Newspaper Kitokkyo Shinmun, July 1996).
October. An unidentified man disrupts a Dharma talk at the Nûngin Zen Center by driving nails into the tires of believers' automobiles parked outside. The perpetrator also pours corrosive chemicals into various car engines. An accomplice meanwhile uses portable amplification equipment to sing Gospel songs up at the Buddhist gathering, located on the third and fourth floors.
1986 December 6. Several days before the annual Buddha's Enlightenment celebrations, the Taejôkkwangjôn, the main Dharma Hall, a large building of ancient origin at Kûmsansa Temple is completely burned to the ground in an event which makes top news throughout the nation. The Hall is listed as National Treasure Number 476, and is the central hall in a temple which is a regional headquarters and major monastic training center for the Chogye Order. A man active in a local church is apprehended at the scene, but is released because the police claim that, since the fire consumed everything, there is "no evidence." Although he admitted to the crime, he is released without being charged. Discounting widespread opinion and belief, local police claim that "religious heretics" are not suspected. However, in an unprecedented move, the Korean government pays to have the building quickly rebuilt. It is widely believed that this unusual action was undertaken to preempt the possibility of interreligious strife. (1 building)
1987 December. A fundamentalist Christian by the name of Yang Shinha from the Tamna Church on Chejudo Island is apprehended after setting fire to two temples - Kwanûmjôngsa and Taegaksa - completely burning them to the ground. (2 buildings)
1988 September 25. In the early morning hours, a fire is set at Pômôsa Temple in Pusan, a major monastic training center of the Chogye Order and regional headquarters. The fire completely destroys the Myôngbujôn (Chijang Bodhisattva Hall- a funeral hall), taking with it 16 priceless altar paintings of the Buddha. The paintings were considered treasures and the hall a registered Cultural Asset. The cause of the fire is unknown but deemed "highly suspicious" by Pusan city authorities. (1 building)
December 8. Several days before the annual Buddha's Enlightenment celebrations, the Chônggagwôn, the main Dharma Hall on the Kyôngju campus of Dongguk University is completely burned to the ground. Arson is suspected but no one is apprehended. (1 building)
1989 January. A stone lantern and pagoda is destroyed and statements attacking Buddhism are painted on the temple's gates Okch'ôn Am Hermitage located in the Sôdaemun (Hongûndong), Seoul.
March. Several individuals enter Kupok Am Hermitageon Samgaksan Mountain on the outskirts of Seoul and destroy a stone lantern and stone pagoda, seriously damage a Ch'ilsônggak (Big Dipper Hall), and paint red crucifixes on a large gilded Buddha statue.
April. Five to six individuals destroy a Buddha statue and paint red crucifixes on a large outdoor Ma-ae Buddha figure carved into the rock on Samgaksan Mountain on the outskirts of Seoul. In all, some 10 temples are severely damaged or desecrated in the days immediately before and after the national Buddha's Birthday holidays.
April. The Hyangmok Committee of the Seoul City Government gathers military reserve forces under its control for a (taesônghoe) church service. Some of the members are compelled to attend even though they are not Christian.
July 29. The huge main Dharma Hall and a temple dormitory at Potasa Temple, Oksudong, Sôngdonggu, Seoul are completely burned to the ground. A 23-year old follower of the Taesônjillihoe (Great Conversion Truth Church) is arrested at the scene. Damage is estimated at $1.1 million according to the Chogye Order report. (2 buildings)
October 27. The huge Taeunjôn, the main Dharma Hall, and a temple dormitory at Pohyônsa Temple in Taegu are completely burned to the ground. Though the modern buildings were erected in 1985, the police determine that each building must have suffered an "electrical short circuit," and no further investigations are conducted. (2 buildings)
1990 May 2. Two men break into the Buddhist Broadcasting System (BBS, the first Buddhist radio station in Korea) in Seoul, two days before it is due to begin broadcasting a combination of popular music and Buddhist teaching and cultural programs. They tie up two guards, and proceed to destroy all of the radio station's recording and transmission equipment. They smash expensive electronic gear and tear up several state-of-the-art recording booths. At one point, they use a statue of the Buddha as a battering ram to break through several plate-glass recording booth windows and use the Buddha's head to damage computer equipment, sound boards, reel-to-reel decks, and screens. Damage is estimated in the millions of dollars, and delays the opening of the station by several months. No arrests are ever made.
November. A man by the name of Myông Chinhong falsely claims to have been a Buddhist monk some 20 years before, and organizes mass spiritual revivals under the heading, "Why I Became a Minister." In the course of his "revivals," this purported "ex-monk-turned minister" makes inflammatory and abusive statements about the Buddhism. There is no record of his ever having been ordained a monk, or living in any temple. (See May 1982)
Students and parishioners at a Christian theological school in Pusan misinterpret an ancient, traditional Buddhist death ceremony as being "slanderous" of Jesus Christ. The name of the ceremony, for many centuries called "Yesu-jae," sounds similar to the Korean pronunciation and Korean spelling of "Jesus" (Yesu), though the Chinese characters are unrelated to Christian vocabulary or sacraments. (It is a traditional merit-making ceremony in anticipation of death). The students and parishioners mail a letter of "warning" to Buddhist leaders at several area temples, schools, and organizations. The letters slander Buddhist teachings, and are plastered on the walls of Buddhist temples and organizations throughout the city of Pusan.
1991 April. Yun Ch'anggyu and Shim Yôngch'o, teachers at the Taesông High School in Kôch'ang, direct their students (many of them Buddhist) to recite Biblical passages and sing Christian hymns in class. In the same month, the Buddha statue of the Buddhist student club at Ch'ôngju University is vandalized.
Sept. 23. Pudo Am Hermitage at Tonghwasa Temple is destroyed by fire. (1 building)
Oct. 15. Haeundae Buddhist Mission Bldg in Pusan is destroyed by fire. (1 building)
October. The huge main Dharma Hall (Taeunjôn) at Pongwônsa Temple in the Shinch'on district of Seoul is totally destroyed by fire. The hall was registered as Seoul city Cultural Asset Number 68. This temple was the headquarters of the T'aego Order, the second-largest Buddhist sect in Korea at the time of the incident. A guard at the temple testified to seeing two men flee into the mountains behind the temple as the building burst into flames. Local police conclude that there is no evidence, that there was probably an "electrical short circuit," and the fire was quickly declared "an accident." Three large Buddha statues and altar portraits considered treasures are destroyed. (1 building)
November. Military reserves stationed in Kyôngnam Province (many of them Buddhist) are forced to attend a Protestant revival meeting, presumably by a superior officer.
The Kwanûmjôn, the Kwanûm Bodhisattva Hall and a large Dharma Teaching Hall (Sôlpôpchôn) at Sôngjusa in Changwôn city are completely burned to the ground. (2 buildings)
P'yo Ch'ajong, a member of the Pedel Church in Pusan, publicly declares that the world-famous Sôkkuram Buddha statue is a subject of "idol-worship" and the product of "a heretical religion". He attempts to damage the priceless statue, but is stopped. The Sokkuram Buddha was declared a "World Cultural Treasure" by Unesco in 1995, and has twice been renovated and preserved with Unesco financial and technical involvement.
1992 April. The Main Dharma Hall on the Kyôngju campus of Dongguk University is completely burned to the ground a second time. The event makes national news. No arrests are made. (1 building)
December. An unknown assailant cuts the two arms off a statue of Maitreya Buddha at Puljosa Temple in Wonju. Various temple artifacts are burned and over 100 threatening phone calls are made to the temple office.
1993 February. Colonel (battalion commander) Cho Pyôngshik of the 17th Tank Battalion, claiming a lack of warehouse space, has the Dharma Hall on his base dismantled. The gilded statue of the Buddha is taken from the Hall, burned, and openly discarded behind the mountain. Taejon. The event makes national news. (1 building)
April. Within two months of Cho's actions, the Dharma Hall and stone lantern are damaged at Kimhae Air Base.
The Yôngdo Church in Pusan organizes to prevent a temple from being built beside them, claiming that they "cannot accept the construction of a place of idol worship" near them.
May. At Hyundai High School, all students are required to attend church services, and their attendance at these services is reflected in their school records.
Lee Yun-sun, a teacher at the Paegun Primary School in Uidong, Seoul, teaches the Christian Bible in his class and declares that any Buddhist children in the class are "followers of the Satan," and excludes them from certain class activities.
Professor Im In-hûi rejects the admission application of a Buddhist student. He claims he was only following the orders of the board chairman of Taejôn Junior College Lee Pyông-ik.
Lotus lanterns prepared for Buddha's Birthday celebrations are destroyed at Pongguksa Temple and Chonjôngsa Temple in the Chôngnûng district of Seoul.
July. An assailant severely damages the Buddha statue and other Buddhist artifacts in a Buddhist meeting room at Sônggyungwan University in Seoul. Valuable religious objects are not stolen but thrown into a garbage basket.
1994 May. Before and after Buddha's Birthday, various acts of vandalism and desecration are inflicted upon the properties (especially the richly painted gates) of Daesôngsa Temple and Kwanûmsa Temple in the Saegômjông and Shinch'on districts of Seoul. Approximately 30 acts of vandalism against Buddhist temples in Seoul are recorded during this period.
The Rev. Yu Sûng-hwan of Yuchongni Church declares that Buddhism is "idol worship." He forcibly attempts to "convert" the abbot of Sudosa Temple to Christianity, even mentioning Korean President Kim Young-sam, a Presbyterian.
According to Dr. Pyôn Sôn-hwan, "the thoughtless speech and behavior of this minister who understood that the government was protecting Christianity simply because Kim Young Sam is an elder and the alleged remark by the President that he would make 'hymn songs reverberate throughout the Blue House' at the time of the presidential election damaged confidence in the government that was supposedly based on the principle of religion and state (politics).
June. A fundamentalist Christian enters Mirûk Chôngsa Temple in Kwangju and damages the Buddha statue and Dharma Hall.
1995 September. A fundamentalist Christian by the name of Pak Oh-Sun is apprehended after entering and causing serious damage to five temples on Chejudo. He burns Buddha statues at the temples, in addition to other damage.
A Protestant minister is apprehended after painting a large red cross onto the altar painting behind the Buddha at Mu-ûi sa Temple in Kangjin, Chollanamdo. He is released without charges. Later an unknown person carves a crucifix below the same Buddha image.
1995-96. Students belonging to a fundamentalist Christian group begin an aggressive campaign of proselytizing on the campus of Dongguk University (Seoul), Korea's main Buddhist university. The students proselytize directly in front of a large statue of the Buddha - the campus symbol and central meeting-point - making anti-Buddhist statements and handing out Christian literature to ordained sangha members.
1996. President Kim Young Sam attends services at a Protestant church located on the nation's central military base at Kyeryôngsan Mountain. In an event which sends shock waves throughout Buddhist and Catholic circles in Korea, many troops based there are compelled to attend the service in order to create the appearance of a larger number of Protestant troops. (Many of the troops are not Protestant Christians, and many are not even Christian.) Moreover, people attending services at a nearby temple and Catholic church are placed under virtual "house arrest," their religious sanctuaries being encircled with troops while the President makes what is deemed a "preferential" visit to the Protestant chapel. Those inside the Buddhist temple and Catholic church were made to remain inside for several hours while President Kim completed his visit. Buddhist and Catholic leaders lodge strong protests. Some Buddhist leaders perceive the President's actions as a license, a virtual "green light" for abusive actions to be taken against them, citing the centuries-old tradition in Korea of leaders signalling, through thinly-veiled actions, the unstated "allowances" that the government will make for actions which coincide with "non-legislateable" policies.
1996. The long-awaited tentative plans related to the new Education Law are announced by the government's Education Reform Committee. The plans are based on the educational system of the Renewal Church of Christ, and include plans to establish (with government money) a special graduate school for the education and training of Christian ministers. Buddhists lodge strong protests, which are initially ignored. Eventually the Committee agrees to restate their objectives at a later date.
TheWônmi ward office of Puch'on city near Seoul sends official letters to several Buddhist kindergartens, primary schools, and other Buddhist organizations and temples. Language in the letters beseeches them to find "the peace of God and the comfort of Jesus Christ.
The swastika - for centuries a symbol of good fortune throughout Asia, and also a Buddhist symbol of the same - is replaced on many flagpoles in Seoul with crucifixes.
A large red crucifix is painted in a concrete shelter used by Buddhist monks for meditation, located one hundred meters above Hwagyesa Temple on Samgaksan Mountain on the outskirts of Seoul.
A school teacher by the name of "Lee" at Songwu Primary School in P'och'ôn, Kyônggi Province, urges students to attend church services as part of their lessons. She forces them to sing certain Christian hymns in class to confirm their attendance, and does other "missionary work" in her capacity as schoolteacher.
April 6. Fires are set to the Abbot's quarters, the lawn (dried from the recent spell) and nine other places (out-buildings) at Pulguksa Temple in Kyôngju, the most famous Buddhist temple in Korea, seen on travel posters everywhere.
According to the report filed with the headquarters of the Chogye Order, a Mr. Kim Yông-shik was caught on the spot and reported to the police. The police transferred him to a Taegu city mental hospital. Although he admitted to the crime as "a follower of another religion," he was released without being charged because there was no material evidence. (1 building)
April 19. Two temples on Samgaksan Mountain on the outskirts of Seoul are severely damaged by fires which are set within an hour of each other. The two-year-old large bell platform at Samsông Am Hermitage is burned to its foundation. The assailant(s) also cause damage to the Main Dharma Hall, burning holes in the locked doors while trying to gain access to the sanctuary containing the temple's main Buddha statue. Damage to the ruined bell platform is estimated at $250,000 according to police. (1 building)
April 20. Two recently-constructed Dharma Halls at Pônwôn Chôngsa Temple are burnt to the ground, and another is severely damaged by flames, just after midnight. The Nahanjôn enshrined 519 wood statues of arhats and bodhisattvas, each of which was painstakingly hand-carved and hand-painted over a period of seven years. Damage at Pônwôn Chôngsa Temple is estimated at $5.6 million according to the local police. The unfinished buildings were not insured. (3 buildings)
April 21. The next day, fire is set to the Taejôkkwangjôn, the main Dharma Hall at Hwagyesa Temple, also located on Samgaksan Mountain, within a short walk of Samsông Am Hermitage and Pônwôn Chôngsa Temple. Damage is minimal. Two police guarding the temple fail to catch the assailant, who is interrupted in his task when a monk spots him while walking to the outhouse. (1st attack on Hwagyesa, home of the Seoul International Zen Center and living quarters of more than twenty North American and European monks and disciples of most successful Korean Buddhist international teacher, Master Seung Sahn (Haengwôn Sûngsan sônsa).
May 12. Arsonists attack the main Buddha statue in the Taejôkkwangjôn at Hwagyesa Temple in Seoul for the second time. A lit candle is placed in a box of papers and wisk brooms under the main altar. The fire is quickly extinguished by a passing monk. At the time, more than 30 police and army are patrolling the temple in plainclothes in broad daylight, but fail to apprehend the assailant. (2rd attack on Hwagyesa)
May 14. Two days later, again with over 30 police and military patrolling the temple, a massive fire is set beneath the main Buddha statue in the Taejôkkwangjôn at Hwagyesa Temple in Seoul for the third time. Superb altar paintings, ornate woodcarvings and traditional wall paintings are lost. Damage estimated at about $775,000 according to the police. (3rd attack, 1 building seriously damaged).
May. Rev. Pae Sông-ho, a Protestant minister, enters the main Buddha Hall at Ch'ôngryongsa Temple in Chinhae on the southern coast of the peninsula. He swings a microphone over his head like a bolo, smashing the main Buddha statue and damaging beyond repair the altar paintings hanging behind the main altar. Witnesses who apprehend him hear him shouting abusive statements about "idol worship" and that "now [he] will go to heaven for destroying these craven images." Though taken into custody by police, the minister is released within hours with no charges filed by the local authorities. Damage to the Dharma Hall is extensive.
May 22. Two days before Buddha's Birthday, the main Dharma Hall at Mangyông Am Hermitage in Sôngnam, a city bordering Seoul, is burned to the ground. Christian fundamentalists active in the area are suspected but not investigated. (1 building)
Yawn, obviously you have not been reading posts around here and just want to spew further lies and hatred yourself.
Im not spewing hate! Why would accuse me of such a thing!?
Wait a minute here. You've been a part of FR for one day and you have the nerve to come and make final judgements on us. Check your attitude at the door, otherwise people are not going to take too kindly to you.
Well yeah! I just found this website a month ago! Where would I be able to find condemnation of this sort of thing? I haven't heard any Christian groups condmemn any of what's happening in Korea!
You sure are spewing hate. Have you even bothered to read posts and threads on this website before throwing accusations out there?
So what if I just got here? What's wrong with that? And why do I have an attitude. Im not the one bombing churches and forcing Buddhism on others!
Christianity is not the only religion under attack by the leftists - Any and all religions that do not bow to the power of the state, or ARE the state are marked for destruction:
How is this hatred? I mean... I was just wondering why you aren't condmening this sort of thing?
Then why are you attacking Buddhists? How am I doing somthing wrong by posting this? If it bothers you why don't you condemn it and denounce this sort of thing? I thought Christians were supposed to be loving and gentle?
Neither are we. You have a HUGE CHIP ON YOUR SHOULDER and you obviously don't know what the hell you are talking about. Freeper's are good people with good intentions, and you have the nerve to come here and say otherwise.
Do yourself a favor and get rid of your attitude, or you will be flamed.
I glanced at about half this article; and, but for the guy with the mic, sent to the mental hospital, and those kids gospelling in front of the statue, there's little solid evidence that Christians are on a jihad. I would, at second thought, suspect Marxists or Muslims or both, of stirrin' up bad karma between the faithful. Nuts come in all colors and avowed faiths. You might be worried about the wrong bunch. Heck, it don't take a genius to figure out that carving a crucifix into a statue is gonna mess with heads. Like putting red and black ants in a jar, and shaking.
Okay....who's attacking Buddhists here on FR?
It would perhaps be better to educate those christians
here,as they probably do not know about this.
Buddhists are under attack many places in the pacific rim,
I had not heard of these Korean attacks myself.
I don't I have several friends who are Christian and they are also shocked about this sort of violence by members of their religion. I was just wondering why not a whole lot have been condemning this sort of violent acts by people claiming to represent Christians?
You haven't seen responses mainly because there have been very few posts.
You may be surprised by the responses FOR the Buddists from the Freepers if you laid out the background first.
I am surprised that a Buddist would ACCUSE and CONDEMN first? Not exactly the teachings of Buddah.
This sounds like leftist knee-jerking.
Well, I'm not up to speed on this issue...although I am willing to listen. You came on like gangbusters with your accusations towards Christians and it didn't go over well with me.
You seem calm now...so do tell me what you know.
That is not how your first replies came across.
You will find that there are many here who view Buddhism
as a close second to Muslims, mainly through knowing little about it.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.