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Apology fails to subdue criticism over Christian ‘spiritual mapping’

Criticism of so-called Christian “spiritual mapping” intensified Thursday, despite Pastor Choi Ji-ho’s apology Wednesday to the largest Buddhist temple in southern Seoul, for uploading a video clip on YouTube of Christian worship in the temple.

Spiritual mapping refers to targeting cities or regions with public prayers and worship.

Pastor Choi and a group of his followers under Choi’s praise leadership program visited the Bongeun Temple in Samseong-dong to officially apologize to Ven. Myeongjin, abbot of the temple.

But in a separate incident, the Donghwa Temple in Daegu, North Gyeongsang Province, said Thursday it is considering taking legal action against the Christian Council of Daegu for libel after Internet users revealed another online video clip of spiritual mapping of the city.
Ven. Myeongjin (left), abbot of the Bongeun Temple, accepts the apology of Pastor Choi Ji-ho (right) at the temple in southern Seoul on Wednesday. (The Bongeun Temple)
Ven. Myeongjin (left), abbot of the Bongeun Temple, accepts the apology of Pastor Choi Ji-ho (right) at the temple in southern Seoul on Wednesday. (The Bongeun Temple)

An unidentified voice in the online video clip says that Daegu suffered the 2003 subway fire which killed 198 people, a population reduction, an economic downturn and a high divorce rate all because of the existence of the Donghwa Temple. The temple traces its roots to the Silla Kingdom period, circa A.D. 493. The video also shows Christians having worship services in and around the temple.

News reports said the temple is collecting documents to identify the people in the video to take legal action.

But the association denied the temple’s allegations, saying it neither created the video nor conducted the spiritual mapping.

Korean Internet users quickly revealed another online video clip in which some Christian groups sing hymns inside a temple in Myanmar while Buddhist monks are present. The users went on to criticize the Christian worshippers saying they have degraded the image of Korea overseas.

But even among the Christian community there are voices claiming spiritual mapping is both rude and theologically wrong.

A Christian minister, who leads a Presbyterian church near the Bongeun Temple, said it was wrong to publicly hold a Christian worship service in front of Buddhists.

“While the Christian world view is based on monism, the spiritual mapping comes from the view of dualism or pluralism in which the world is in the reign of more than one god. So it is theologically wrong,” said Jung Sung-ho, pastor of Wooridle Church, a Presbyterian church.

The YouTube clip of Pastor Choi’s group showed a man praying inside the sanctuary of the Bongeun Temple with his hands held up over the head, women praying with their hands on the walls and the doors of the temple.

“I offer my sincere apology to the Bongeun Temple and the Buddhist members of the temple for wrongly teaching my students and letting this happen,” Choi was quoted by the temple as saying.

In response to the apology, Ven. Myeongjin said, “Being considerate and not hurting others is the essence of the teaching of Jesus.”

He said that he accepts the apology as means for his wish for better communication between religions and integration in Korean society.

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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