Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Ten Buddhist Monks Allowed into North Korea

Last Wednesday, the 4th, ten Buddhist monks arrived in North Korea with government approval to bring essential drugs for the population.

The venerable monks from the Jogye Order spent a day in North Korea, entering the border region near Mount Kumgang. The ten monks visited Singye, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in all of Korea, located in the north, at the foot of the mountain. Inside the temple, they did not see any pictures of Kim Jong-il, or his father, Kim Il-sung, an exceptional circumstance since every place of worship in North Korea is usually used to venerate the two dictators. The Jogye Order had planned to hold a joint service at Singye Temple with its North Korean counterpart, but it had to cancel the plan after the North Korean government disapproved.

The monks gave a village chief more than 100,000 anthelmintic tablets to kill parasitic worms. Many North Koreans suffer from these because of poor nutrition and a lack of facilities for good hygiene.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation, North Koreans have the worst diet and healthcare in the world.

“What struck me the most was the temple visit. We did not see any of the regime’s symbols but saw those of our faith,” one of the monks said. “Although there were no worshippers, it is clear that someone is keeping the place clean and in order. This filled by heart with hope because it means that there are still some Buddhists in North Korea, even if they are hiding.”

(The picture is of the the Woljong Temple, I couldn't find a decent one of Singye)

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