06/17/2009, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA

Thousands of Catholics and Buddhists against the government and President Lee

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
President Lee Myung-bak’s administration is under increasing pressures; accused of paying little attention to the needs of the poor, the environment and human rights. The president is told to apologise for investigating former President Roh, who committed suicide as a result.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his administration remain under attack for failing to help the poor, protect the environment and for violating human rights.

Since the start of the month 124 intellectuals and university professors have complained that South Korea’s democracy, press freedom and media independence have been weakened. Two days ago Buddhist and Catholic religious leaders have joined the fight.

On Monday thousands of Buddhist monks and hundreds of Catholic priest issued separate statements calling on President Lee to change his style of government.

About 1,200 monks from the Jogye Order, the country’s largest Buddhist group, signed a petition against the president’s policies.

President Lee's one-sided policies have shown signs of the derailment of democracy,” the Venerable Hyon Gak said.

In the same statement he urged the president to apologise for the politically-motivated investigation' of the late former president Roh Moo-hyun which led to his suicide.

The Buddhist monk also called on the government to drop plans that would negative affect four major rivers and their environment.

The monks also announced a mass protest at Tongdo Temple in South Gyeongsang Province for 1 July.

More than half of the senior monks have signed the statement (novices excluded). This represents a higher number than the signatories of the 1987 appeal against the military regime which led to a pro-democracy uprising.

Also on Monday more than a thousand Catholics priests took part in an open discussion organised by the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice (CPAJ) at Myeong Dong Cathedral, central Seoul.

Created in the 1970s the CPAJ is as association representing priests from across diocesan boundaries. In the 1970s and 1980s it played pivotal role in undermining the military regime.

For the CPAJ the Lee administration has turned a deaf ear to the needs of the population, especially with regards to widespread desire for reconciliation with the North.

But Buddhists and Catholics are not alone. On the sidelines until now, South Korea’s Protestant community is set to come out against the president.

They too want Mr Lee, who is an elder in an evangelical Church, to look after the poor, human rights and the environment.

Their action will include a nationwide prayer campaign, starting in Suwon (Gyeonggi).

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