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Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 19:46:04 EDT
Subject: AANEWS for Tuesday, October 19, 1999
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subject: AANEWS for October 19, 1999

Battlin’ Buddhists

American Athesists, #656, 19 October 1999

Buddhist monks in South Korea took the streets last week for a series of pitched battles over which religious sect would control that country’s wealthiest monastic order. An estimated 500 monks of the Chogye sect, backed up by a small hired army of security personnel, stood their ground against a rival attacking faction which was trying to storm their temple headquarters.

It seems that the two Buddhist factions—the Purification and Reform Committee (PRC) and the Constitution Safeguards Committee (CSC)—have been squabbling over control of the religious order which claims 10 million members, and operates hundreds of temples. BBC notes that the annual budget of the group is nearly $10 million and it also owns property worth millions of dollars.

The flap has been going on since December, when South Korean police had to intervene in the full-blown rioting, and oust over 100 dissident monks who had barricaded themselves for weeks inside the main temple complex. A number of the monks had soaked themselves with gasoline, and threatened to commit suicide. Police detained 77 of the enlightened hooligans, and charged 45 with violent acts. The BBC coverage of the event read like coverage of a British soccer riot: Police fired tear gas and turned water cannons on the occupied administrative building. Grey-robed monks, some wearing yellow construction helmets, fought back against the riot police hurling rocks, bottles and furniture...Two of the monks slit their stomachs with knives and shouted through loud-hailers that they were prepared to martyr themselves...

It’s not the prepackaged, for-gullible-Western-consumption-style Buddhism which many credulously accept, hypnotized by glib generalities and esoteric-sounding cliches. Buddhism in South Korea is under considerable stress, especially from aggressive Christian-Protestant groups which have proselytized the country since the end of World War II. Most Buddhist sects supported or acquiesced in the Japanese occupation of the country in hopes of maintaining their feudal-like rule that had existed for decades.

WWBD—What Would Buddha Do?