Buddhist Ire at's Korean President Grows as Police Search Head Monk

July 31, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Buddhist Channel


Buddhist leaders on Thursday reacted angrily to President Lee Myung-bak over a controversial police search of the vehicle of their head monk, demanding the Christian leader fire his police chief and stop his "religious partiality."

Lee, an elder in a powerful presbyterian church in central Seoul, has become deeply unpopular with Buddhists following a series of government policies that they say are religiously discriminative. The discontent compelled Prime Minister Han Seung-soo to officially apologize last week.

The rift took a fresh turn, however, after Venerable Jigwan, the chief executive of the Jogye order, South Korea's largest Buddhism sect, encountered an embarrassing inspection inside the Jogye Temple grounds, central Seoul. Ven. Jigwan was departing for an outside meeting on Tuesday when police officers stopped the car. The monk rolled down the window and showed his face, but two officers, aware of his status, opened the car's trunk and continued their search efforts.

The temple has been under police supervision for about a month since six civic activists took refuge there as they were wanted by police for allegedly organizing street protests against U.S. beef imports.

"They treated Ven. Jigwan, who represents 20 million Buddhists, like a criminal, and this incident revealed how police see the Buddhist circles and that they are treating the Buddhist history with contempt," Monk Seungwon, the Jogye Order spokesman, told reporters.