Buddhists from 2 Koreas hold joint ceremony

Religion and religious believers always should function with a higher devotion to peace than those trapped in the random vicissitudes that impact political rivalry

Kwang-Tae Kim (AP, November 21, 2009)

Seoul, South Korea – Buddhist monks from South and North Korea held
a joint ceremony at a temple in the communist country Saturday in a
continuation of civic exchanges between the nations despite a bloody
naval skirmish earlier this month.

Eight South Korean monks from the Cheontae Order and four North
Korean monks — all clad in gray or dark blue Buddhist robes
— marked the 908th anniversary of the death of the order’s
founder, a monk named Jawoon said after returning home from the North
Korean border city of Kaesong.


The two countries are trying to minimize political damage from the
naval clash off their disputed western sea border on Nov. 10, which
killed one North Korean sailor and wounded three others, according to
South Korea.

“This shows that inter-Korean exchange and cooperation proceeds in a
normal manner,” South Korean Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee
Jong-joo said of Saturday’s ceremony.

Kaesong is also the site of a joint North and South Korean
industrial complex and was one of two scenic areas that South Korean
tourists had been able to visit, along with the Diamond Mountain resort
on North Korea’s east coast.

The Cheontae Order, South Korea’s second-largest Buddhist sect, helped
North Korea restore a temple in Kaesong in 2005. Since then, monks from
the two Koreas have held annual ceremonies there, except last year when
ties soured.

The tours — a key symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation
— were halted last year amid heightened tensions. North Korea
said in August it would restart them, but a date has yet to be worked

Buddhism is the oldest major religion in both Koreas, and is followed by about 22.8 percent of South Korea’s population.

North Korea claims to guarantee freedom of religion, but severely
restricts its observance and allows only state-approved religious
groups. It has about 10,000 Buddhists, according to the Korea Institute
for National Unification, a Seoul-based government think tank.

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