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Religious Circles Join Vigils in Seoul
Calling for President Lee Myung-Bak's Apology
By Grace Kim
Staff Reporter
Religious groups joined the anti-US beef protest on July 1, 2008. Photo Courtesy of Hankyoreh

The religious circles have fanned the flames of the protest against US beef import as the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice held second Mass for the nation at Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall on July 1, 2008 at 6:30 p.m.

Groups of protestant churches and even Buddhist monks said on the day that they would join the anti-US beef imports candle-light vigil protests soon.

There were about 10,000 people in the Mass that was conducted with the utmost solemnity including not only Catholics but also many Buddhists and regular citizens.

According to vernacular daily Kyunghyang Shinmun, priests said that they are really glad about so many citizens joining the Mass and that they hope President Lee Myung-Bak will listen to citizens' voice. "I know that the president definitely is a warm person inside but he should not hit his people even with the flowers."

The priest was referring to the brutal repressions on the peaceful demonstrations by the riot policemen. Teenage girls, college coeds, moms with babies, and even lawmakers of the opposition parties were bludgeoned by the riot policemen in recent rallies.

Religious circles marched from Myeong-dong, Namdaemun to the City Hall in Seoul on July 1, 2008. Photo Courtesy of Munhwa ilbo

The organizer of the large-scale candle light vigils "People's Meeting for Anti-Mad Cow Disease," an alliance of 1,800 civic groups including religious groups, also started candle light protests on July 1, 2008 at 7 p.m.

People's Meeting declared "Week for People's Victory" a week from July 1, 2008, and planned to carry on the candle light protest.

After the Mass, priests started marching at 8 p.m. to Myeong-dong, Namdaemun or the Great South Gate, and came back to City Hall. Priests and citizens remained peaceful, abstaining from physical reactions to the riot police during the marching and dismissed voluntarily at 10 p.m. on the day.

Some Christian associations announced that they will host the prayer meeting on July 3, 2008. Buddhists will also hold their meeting for the nation on July 4, 2008.

People's Meeting announced that some 1 million people will gather for the anti-US beef imports and anti-Lee Myung-Bak protest in downtown Seoul on July 5, 2008. Labor unions also expressed that they would join the rally in Seoul.

For over a month South Korean people virtually from all walks of life and of all ages have been joining the candle-light vigil protest against its government which ran against the people's will and decided to resume importing US beef betting against the odds of mad cow disease.

The South Korean government agreed in April to lift a ban on importing US beef. US beef was banned for nearly five years in the wake of the first reported case of mad cow disease in the state of Washington in 2003.

Since then the resistance to the resumption of US beef imports has become a national protest issue.

On June 10, 2008, nearly 1 million people, the largest crowd in recent years, gathered in downtown Seoul and in major cities around the nation, calling for the revocation of the resumption of US beef imports, and demanded that President Lee Myung-Bak step down.

After the protest, President Lee made an official apology to the people on national TV, saying, "I remorse with the pain of grinding my bone." But, when the protests died down a bit several days later, he changed his mind and started cracking down on the peaceful demonstrations.

President Lee's government threatened the people by saying, "All the illegal and violent protesters will be arrested and prosecuted."

The abrupt turnabout of Lee's govenment induced the participation of religious leaders.

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Grace Kim serves as staff reporter of The Seoul Times. Born in Connecticut in the US, she grew up both in S. Korea and in the US. She studied political science and sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Perfect bilingual Grace covers political and foreign communities. Her hobbies include jogging and swimming.






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