10/05/2010, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Three days of interfaith prayers against the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
Catholics, Protestants, mainstream Buddhists and members of the Buddhist Jogye Order are against the plan, which could put at risk the country’s environmental stability and destroy communities living along the affected rivers. They also plan to boycott all businesses that back the project, which the authorities are trying hard to sell.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – South Korea’s four main religious denominations are still together to stop the “Four Major Rivers Restoration Project”, a major development undertaken by the administration of President Lee Myung-bak. Catholics, Protestants, mainstream Buddhists and members of the Buddhist Jogye Order agreed to a three-day prayer vigil against the plan. Religious leaders are also planning to boycott the companies that are backing the project.

A pet project of the Blue House (residence of the South Korean president), the project involves a number of works that would substantially affect the country’s four main rivers. Seoul would be linked to Busan by a 540-kilometre super “water highway” that would also connect the Han and Nankdong Rivers. The diocese of Incheon already disavowed the project in 2008.

For critics, the whole plan could threaten drinking water and the country’s environmental stability.

For the government, it is a “unique” opportunity to move the transportation of goods from roads to waterways and revive the tourist sector.

For this purpose, the government has also already allocated $US 20 billion, “wasted money” according to opponents.

Religious groups announced on Sunday that they would carry out a prayer vigil and boycott the project. They also said that they are planning to campaign for a referendum on the project as part of a movement of civil disobedience against the Lee Myung-bak administration.

“This may be the first time in South Korean religious history that believers of the four major religions are gathering together to hold a fast and prayer vigil for three days,” said Maeng Joo-hyung, a member of the Catholic Solidarity Executive Committee.

If carried out, the boycott would affect some of the country’s main companies, including Hyundai, Samsung, Daewoo, Posco and the Hanyang Consortium.

Such inter-faith cooperation is nothing new. Since 13 August, various faith-based groups have been rallying for the cause in front of Seoul’s Daehan Gate.

Others are organising pilgrimages and torchlight rallies at construction sites.

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