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May. 27  2018
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Christian's Photo Column 

Three steps forward, one deep bow -- one unusual protest against capitalist greed of profit

The ritual has increased fierce debates over the Saemangeum reclamation project, which the government has initiated in the face of heated opposition from environmentalists here and abroad who argue it will destroy one of the world萸 five major wetlands, killing thousands of precious marine life.

Source  :  BASE21


by Christian / Base21 Media Activists
dvs-b@t-online.de




Last Saturday a long procession of people, grouped in two, was seen along the avenues in downtown Seoul, engaged in a repeated motion of taking a few steps and then giving deep bows with their heads lowered on the street.

At the front of the line were Catholic priest Mun Kyu-hyun, Buddhist Sukyung, Won-Buddhist Kim Kyeung-il, and Rev. Lee Hee-woon.

With their foreheads glistening with sweat and knees drenched, the four silently led the people, consisted of members from religious and environment groups as well as citizens, through a ritual called “Sam-bo-il-bae” along the busy streets.

Their religious beliefs are different, but their conviction was the same: prevent our nature from totally destruction in the name of so-called development - in fact by capitalist profit greed.

Saturday was the 65th day of their “pilgrimage of suffering”, which started on March 28 in Puan, North Jeolla-do (Province), in an effort to save Saemangeum mud flats from a massive reclamation project initiated by the South Korean government.

Meaning “three steps and one bow” in literal translation of the Chinese characters (see on the top), “Sam-bo-il-bae” is one of the most sacrificing forms of penance in Buddhism. Each step symbolizes three major evils greed, rage and foolishness while the bow signifies deep atonement for sins in the humblest way possible by kneeling on the ground.

After their 305 kilometer-long walk, they arrived Friday on Myeongdong cathedral, walked and bowed Saturday from Gwanghwamun to Shicheong (City Hall) Plaza, downtown Seoul. Here on the final ceremony around three thousand people participated the event.

The ritual has increased fierce debates over the Saemangeum reclamation project, which the government has initiated in the face of heated opposition from environmentalists here and abroad who argue it will destroy one of the world’s five major wetlands, killing thousands of precious marine life. The marchers, other environmentalists and many academics, however, oppose the plan because of the environmental damage it will cause. They say tidelands are home to the world’s most diverse forms of life, and play vital roles in purifying seawater and controlling storms and floods. The reclamation project, which will destroy the tidal ecology, will also lead to unforeseen problems, they contend. “If the plan is carried out, the whole ecosystem in the tideland will disappear. The development project should not be approached from the perspective of economics or politics only. We don’t know what we will lose from this vast natural site,” said Lee Chang-bok, professor of oceanography at Seoul National University.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the North Jeolla-do government initiated the Saemangeum reclamation project in 1991, saying that the region would be converted into farmland. There are also plans to build an industrial complex there as well. It has been called “the biggest land expansion project in Korean history.” It is one of the biggest reclamation projects in the world.

But beside the damage for the nature the project also makes no sense, because especially the farmers in South Korea are suffering poverty because of over production and decreasing prices for their products. And many food companies are importing products from countries where they get the products much more cheaper as in South Korea. This means that on the end the project will be only an industrial park.

“The four religious leaders are expressing their utmost wish to put an end to the Saemangeum project, which the government is pushing forward with no direct purpose,” said Jang Ji-young of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, one of the environmental groups organizing the Sam-bo-il-bae movement. “We have believed that development and material prosperity are always good things. We should not be arrogant any more about the death of life. We should be sorry for the tideland,” said Wontaek, a Buddhist monk, as he joined the three-step, one-bow march Thursday.

The number of citizens following the procession throughout the streets has gradually increased as the procession neared Seoul, with more than 500 people participating on Friday alone.















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