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Religious leaders speak out against NIS scandal

Religious leaders speak out against NIS scandal

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Published : 2013-12-12 20:19
Updated : 2013-12-12 20:19

Some 164 Protestant clergymen in the Daejeon and Sejong City area on Thursday held a protest urging President Park Geun-hye to resign over her sloppy measures against the state intelligence agency’s alleged interference in the 2012 presidential election.

Calling it a “serious incident that threatens the basis of democracy,” the religious leaders said Park should assume responsibility, apologize and step down.

“The reason we are asking for her resignation is not because we assume that she has orchestrated the interference in the last presidential election by the National Intelligence Service and several other state agencies. We don’t think she has done so,” said Kim Yong-wu, head of Bo Moon Methodist Church.

“But instead of trying to set the record straight, she tries to downplay the issue by labeling those criticizing the interference in the election as ‘North Korea followers,’ which is an adverse action against democracy. It is scaring people. We believe that asking her to step down is (a means of) exercising the justice of God in this society,” he said.

The Protestant clergymen’s protest is the latest in the response by religious leaders to the issue. Despite criticism from the conservatives among religious leaders, citizens and politicians, and from President Park herself, the number of clergymen ― both Protestant and Catholic ― and Buddhist monks denouncing the government and Park has been snowballing.

On Wednesday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea’s Committee for Justice and Peace announced that speaking up about controversies in society is a responsibility of church leaders, one that they will continue to exercise. The members also defined the NIS scandal as a “grave threat to democracy.”

“Christians are members of society and have a responsibility to express their conscience based on their religious beliefs … The recent scandal revealing that the National Intelligence Service had tried to interfere in the last presidential election is grave. And it is a shame that some people simply dismiss the criticism as an attempt to break down the country,” the official body of the Catholic Church said.

“We will keep on speaking up for the weak and the poor, such as the dismissed workers of Ssangyong Motors, the evicted residents near the electric transmissions towers to be built in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, and others,” the council said.

The announcement is seen as support for the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice, a group of progressive priests, including Father Ham Se-woong, an iconic figure of the pro-democracy movements of the 1970s and 80s, which last month held a mass urging Park’s resignation over her handling of the NIS scandal, observers said. Their action caused Park to warn religious leaders to stay away from political matters.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)

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