From today's Hankyoreh:
Buddhists protest perceived bias in Lee administration
200,000 protesters demand apology from President Lee and resignation of National Police Agency Chief Eo
In what was the first event of its kind, approximately 200,000 Buddhists belonging to 27 Buddhist denominations protested in downtown Seoul on August 27 against what they called religious discrimination on the part of President Lee Myung-bak’s administration.
The Ven. Wonhak, head of the organizing committee for what was called the “All Buddhists’ Assembly for Denouncing the Lee Myung-bak Administration’s Constitution-Destroying Religious Discrimination,” said that Korean Buddhism is in the most “distressful” state it has been in “since it came to Korea 1,700 years ago.”
“Buddhism has been kicked out into the street by thoughtless fanatics who dream of a Christian republic,” he said.
Monks and regular believers filled the streets in front of Seoul City Hall, from Taepyeongno and Deoksu Palace to the corner of the Hanwha Building.
Kim Kwang-jun, an Anglican priest who is head of the National Council of Churches of Korea’s Committee on Interfaith Dialogue, issued a statement of solidarity.
“As a Christian I apologize for cases of religious discrimination, like when Rev. Jang Gyeong-dong caused controversy for insulting Buddhism,” said Kim. “The Lee administration has discarded the principle of separation of church and state and even the principles of democracy, all in the name of pragmatism.”
Protesters issued a resolution demanding an open apology from President Lee, the resignation of National Police Agency Chief Eo Cheong-soo, the legislation of a prohibition on religious discrimination, and “favorable consideration” by the authorities for people wanted for involvement in the candlelight protests.
Organizers said they will be operating a “Religious Discrimination Monitoring Group” to determine whether President Lee takes action in good faith on their demands, and that they will organize similar protests across the country if he does not.
In the afternoon, protesters marched to Jogye Temple, going from the Sejongno intersection to Jonggak and on to Ujeonggugno. The police mobilized approximately 7,000 police officers from 85 riot police units.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government says it will fine the organizers for “using” Seoul City Hall Plaza without a permit.