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Governing Camp Seeks to Embrace Buddhists

By Na Jeong-ju, The Korea Times, Sept 3, 2008

Seoul, South Korea -- Senior lawmakers of the governing Grand National Party (GNP) called for measures Wednesday to address the growing complaints among Buddhists toward President Lee Myung-bak, saying the ruling camp should view the matter more seriously.

"We've asked our floor leader Hong Joon-pyo to deliver our concerns about the Buddhist rallies to Cheong Wa Dae and to take appropriate measures,'' GNP spokesman Cha Myeong-jin said after a meeting of the party's decision-making Supreme Council.

The governing party will set up an ad-hoc committee to deal with the situations, Cha said.

At the meeting, the lawmakers discussed Buddhists' demands, GNP lawmakers said.

They have called on Lee to offer an official apology over his alleged discrimination against their religion. They also demanded the sacking of public officials, including National Police Agency Commissioner Eo Cheong-soo, and legislation to prevent discrimination against any religion.

Rep. Huh Tae-yeol, a member of the GNP's Supreme Council said Lee should address the issue during his town hall meeting scheduled for Sept. 9.

"Lee needs to show how much he cares about Buddhists. The town hall meeting will be a good opportunity for him,'' Huh said.

A Cheong Wa Dae spokesman said the 100-minute meeting will focus on bread-and-butter issues.

GNP leaders expect Lee to express regret over the Buddhists' complaints and announce measures to ban religious discrimination.

Presidential aides said Lee held meetings with his secretaries to address the issue.

More than 200,000 Buddhist monks and followers from around the country gathered in central Seoul last month to protest the President's alleged religious discrimination.

Buddhist groups said they will continue to hold such rallies until their demands are met.

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