Buddhists monks from the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, joined with Burmese activists on 12 March in a public demonstration for democracy in Myanmar. The group proceeded from Myanmar’s embassy in Seoul to the office of the UN Human Rights Council, prostrating themselves in an act called ochetuji, in which their knees, elbows, and forehead each touch the ground. On 16 March, the Jogye Order issued a statement condemning Myanmar’s military.
The military of Myanmar staged a coup on 1 February, arresting popular leader Aung San Suu Kyi and many members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party. Since then, regular protests have erupted across the country with several leading to bloodshed as military and police forces opened fire on protesters with live ammunition.
Four Jogye monastics from the order joined Burmese activists on 12 March in a six-kilometer, full-body prostration march, calling for the restoration of peace and democracy in Myanmar. The march lasted some five hours, and the monks foreheads were observed to be covered in gray from the many times they had touched the asphalt.
“There cannot be any dictatorship over people,” said Ven. Hyemun of the Jogye Order. “We will stand with the Myanmar people until they achieve full democracy.” (The Korea Bizwire)
Wai Nwe Hnin Soe, leader of the Myanmar Youth Organization in Korea, live-streamed the event on facebook, which was seen by many of the protesters in Myanmar. “It was a tragic sight for me to see the monks throw themselves to the ground as they prayed for our country. They told us we are not forsaken,” he said. (The Korea Bizwire)
Online commenters appearing to be Myanmar citizens expressed gratitude for the show of support. One commenter wrote: “It touches my heart and even makes me cry. Thanks and we will never forget your voices and support, Korea.” Another added: “I have been a fan of K-drama since 10 years ago. Then I become a big fan of EXO. Now you and your people bring tears to my eyes as I am so grateful for your help and support. God bless South Korea.” (The Korea Times)
Other Korean religious groups, including the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK), have expressed solidarity with the demonstrators in Myanmar. The archbishop of Seoul, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, also released a statement on 12 March expressing solidarity with the citizens of Myanmar: “I am saddened to learn that those responsible for Myanmar’s military coup are conducting ruthless crackdowns and taking violent action against peaceful protesters. Violent suppression cannot be accepted in any kind of situation. I express deep solidarity with Myanmar’s citizens and hope the country will establish democracy.” (The Korea Times)
In a statement read aloud on Tuesday by senior official Ven. Geum-gok, the Jogye Order said: “We are deeply concerned about the Myanmar military’s violent suppression of peaceful protests in Myanmar. We want to express our solidarity with the people of Myanmar. Since the military coup in Myanmar took place on 1 February, people have been falling victim to state violence in the streets.” (Hankyoreh)
The statement continued: “The history of Myanmar has been the history of civil struggle for democracy against military dictatorships,” the Jogy Order said. “The Myanmar military has crushed democracy movements many times in its history, and is responsible for the deaths of over 100 protestors and injuries of thousands this year.” (Hankyoreh)
“Myanmar is a country of ‘a thousand Buddhas and a thousand pagodas,’ where people all over the world travel to find peace in their lives,” the statement continued. “The Jogye Order wishes for the sentiment of Buddhist monks in Myanmar, who are pleading for peace on their knees at the feet of the police, to be echoed around the world.” (Hankyoreh)
This is the first statement released by the Jogye Order in support of the pro-democracy movement in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Burmese activists who live in South Korea were in attendance at the event.
Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism condemns Myanmar military (Hankyoreh)
Buddhist Monks Protest Brings Courage to Myanmar People (The Korea Bizwire)
Praying for Myanmar’s democracy (Yonhap News Agency)
Buddhist group against coup in Myanmar (Yonhap News Agency)
Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Charged With Bribery, Faces 15 Years In Prison (Bloomberg)