11/28/2013, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Seoul: Buddhists, Protestants and Catholics united against the Park government

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
A thousand Buddhist monks took to the streets to denounce intelligence agency interference and criticise the president for her "inability to communicate with the public." On 16 December, a group of Protestant clergymen will begin ten days of prayer and hunger strike against the government. Tensions with the ruling party continue, as it attacks the Church in right-wing newspapers.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Despite the wave of criticism and threats against the Catholic Church, even South Korean Buddhist monks took to the streets in Seoul yesterday to slam the country's intelligence agency and criticise President Park Geun-hye for her "inability to communicate with the public."

About a thousand monks called on the government to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the allegations against the National Intelligence Service (NIS) for interfering in the last presidential election. In addition, they want President Park to apologise for her "arbitrary handling of state affairs."

In so doing, the monks join the pro-democracy campaign launched a few months ago within the Catholic community in favour of "truth and justice" in national politics.

On 22 November, a priest from the Diocese of Jeonju got caught up in a controversy for criticising the government in his homily over its militaristic policies that in his view force North Korea to respond militarily.  

South Korea's establishment lashed out at Fr Park Chang-shin, accusing him of being an "enemy of the nation". He is currently under investigation on "various criminal charges."

Seoul Archbishop Mgr Andrew Yeom Soo-jung yesterday said that Catholics "must be involved in politics" but urged priests and consecrated people to act "upon careful consideration," without direct involvement.

The situation is very tense. Two days ago, a bomb scare forced the archdiocese to close Myeongdong Cathedral, with police deployed around the site to "defend" it from a demonstration of hundreds of army veterans, who pushed their way towards the building.

Right-wing papers and the ruling conservative Saenuri Party are still attacking the Church for its "interference".

Some Protestants also joined Catholics. A group of them said that they would hold a national demonstration on 16 December to demand Park's resignation, followed by a ten-day hunger strike with prayer in front of Seoul City Hall.

"In this regard," wrote the Korea Herald in an editorial, "religious organizations are advised to stay away from politics. When Korean society was undergoing a transition from dictatorship to democracy, it needed their active participation in politics. But Korea has already passed that stage."

At the same time, "President Park should not miss the message of the progressive religious groups. She should ensure that the whole truth about state agencies' systematic meddling in last year's elections is brought to light."

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