Saturday, March 7, 2009

Buddhism under threat - II (Korea)

Korea was a majority buddhist nation since 4th century CE and in 1910 CE it was annexed by Japan and was under Japanese rule till the end of the second world war in 1945. After the war Korea was split in two so that Russia and the US could share the spoils of war. Consequently, the mutual distrust between these two countries resulted in the extremely violent Korean War (also called "the forgotten war").

The Americans believed that a Korea liberated from the Japanese but under the domination by the Soviets could pose a threat to entire north pacific region. American occupation forces arrived in South Korea, entirely ignorant of its culture and language, and remained till 1949, leaving a turbulent country ruled by the only Koreans the U.S. could understand: missionary-educated, English-speaking and very conservative; U.S. troops returned the following year.

The first president Syngman Rhee, a completely western educated person (not dis-similar to our very own Nehru) and christian fundamentalist (In mid-1910, Rhee Syngman returned to Korea as a teacher at Seoul YMCA and as a Christian missionary (Methodist). He lived at YMCA, Seoul, Korea. ) who had little feel for the local Korean people, was appointed by the American administration since it became easier for them to deal with someone of their own kind. This inevitably resulted in all future political developments being defined along Christian lines.

The present political dispensation in South Korea is actively anti buddhist and the country has faced frequent protests by buddists agitating against the pro-christian bias of the ruling government.

A brilliant book on how the Americans influenced South Korea is given in the book "In the Ruins of the Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia by Ronald Spector"

The present President Lee Myung-Bak, who when serving as the mayor of Seoul promised to “consecrate” the city in the name of God, has appointed an inordinate amount of Christians in his presidential administration in a country that is mostly secular. According to government figures, Buddhists made up 22.8 percent of the population in 2005, while Christians accounted for 29.2 percent.

Those numbers in no way reflect the Lee administration, where diversity takes a nose dive in a nod to the divine.

-His first health minister, Kim Soung-yee, once blamed the national social welfare program for failing due to a lack of Christian faith.
-National Police Agency Commissioner General Eo Cheong-soo used his position to promote a controversial Christian event for police.
-Chung Jang-sik, chief of the administrations Central Officials' Training Institute promised to set aside one percent of the cities budget to build a "Christian city” when he was mayor of Pohang City.
-Former presidential secretary Choo Bu-ghil had to resign over a contentious speech in a Christian prayer meeting, in which he called anti-U.S. beef/Mad Cow candlelight protesters "satanic.'' (Moronic would have been a better choice of words for that group).
-And in a case bordering on the bizarre, the locations of Buddhist temples were excluded from GPS navigational data released in June.

(From :Source)

(While all this is not done explicitly in India it is a foreboding as to what will happen if conversions are allowed to continue unrestricted)

Many Buddhist monastaries and clergy have come under attack from fanatical Christians with the Korean government at least turning a blind eye if not encouraging such attacks.,7405,0,0,1,0

A recent documentary in the BBC also highlighted the opression the Buddhists face in Korea from the powerful Christian groups.
(Pictures from the documentary)

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