South Korean Buddhists Vow to Step Up Push for Dalai Lama Visit in 2017
A Buddhist group in South Korea said on Wednesday that it plans to renew efforts to arrange for His Holiness the Dalai Lama to visit South Korea in 2017. The South Korean government has refused repeated requests from Buddhists in the country, including in 2002 and 2007, to allow a visit by the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate out of concern that it could strain political and economic ties between Seoul and Beijing.
“While visiting the Dalai Lama last month in India, we delivered our intention to actively push for his trip to South Korea in April 2017,” said Buddhist monk Rev. Kumkang, who is heading the preparatory committee charged with arranging the visit. (Yonhap News Agency)
Speaking at a press conference in Seoul, Kumkang said, “Accepting our proposal, [HH the Dalai Lama] said he has harbored a will to come here if the South Korean government approves of the plan. He vowed to prioritize the trip over any other schedule, and asked us not to back down and push for the plan to the end.” (Yonhap News Agency)
Kumkang said the Dalai Lama was keen to visit Haein Temple in Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang Province, where the Tripitaka Koreana—a collection of 13th century Buddhist scriptures carved on more than 80,000 wooden printing blocks—is housed. His Holiness also expressed a wish to meet intellectuals in South Korea and to sample kimchi, a signature Korean side dish made with fermented cabbage, said the monk, adding, “His visit will help make the people here happy and mentally mature, and pave the way for Korean Buddhism to be more international.” (Yonhap News Agency)
In October 2000, the South Korean authorities cancelled a planned visit by the Dalai Lama, which some officials attributed to fear of a diplomatic dispute with China. In September of that year, the Chinese Embassy in Seoul expressed Beijing’s “strong displeasure” over the proposed visit in a letter to government officials. (BBC)
“Things have changed, and it is not a matter of politics but a pure religious issue, as [HH the Dalai Lama] said he has resigned from the head of the Tibetan government in exile and only serves as a religious leader,” said Kumkang. (Yonhap News Agency)
Buddhism is the most widespread religion in South Korea, with 22.8 per cent of the country’s population of roughly 50 million people identifying as Buddhist, according to census data from 2005. The dominant school of Buddhism is the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.
Buddhist group to push for Dalai Lama's Seoul visit in 2017 (Yonhap News Agency)
South Korea bars Dalai Lama (BBC)