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Korean President praises late cardinal, Buddhist leader

By Hwang Jang-jin, The Korea Heradl, Mar 23, 2010

Seoul, South Korea -- President Lee Myung-bak yesterday reminded people of teachings of the two deceased spiritual leaders, Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan and the Ven. Beopjeong, whose lives inspired Koreans toward the spirit of reconciliation, toleration and sharing.

<< The late Ven Beop Jeong

"They were teachers of us all and left behind teachings of love, non-possession, sharing and giving," Lee said during his fortnightly radio and internet address.

Kim, Korea's first Roman Catholic cardinal, died of pneumonia in February 2009. Beopjeong, a prominent Buddhist monk, died of lung cancer on March 11.

"Their teachings are the real jewel of our society," Lee said. "If we tolerate and care for others a little more and practice sharing and giving, we will get happier and the Republic of Korea will become an envy of the world."

He stressed the spirit of reconciliation the two spiritual leaders demonstrated. "They deeply communicated with each other beyond the religious barrier with the sprit of reconciliation and toleration."

The president recalled fond memories of Kim when he met the Catholic leader in the mid-1970s to ask the church to run a hospital for his company's workers.

During the 2007 presidential campaign, Kim told then opposition candidate Lee to make efforts so that the people trust politics.

The cardinal is revered for his life-long devotion to the poor and underprivileged and his role in promoting democracy and human rights under the past authoritarian regimes.

Lee also said he was an ardent reader of Beopjeong, especially citing his best-selling essay collection, "Without Possession."

"I liked 'Without Possession' too much and repeatedly read it during summer holidays and overseas trips," he said.

The book has sold about 3 million copies since it was first published in 1976. The respected monk used all the proceeds to help the poor and vulnerable, the president said.

Beopjeong headed a group promoting life, charity, and environmental conservation. He also worked to promote communication across religions. He invited Kim to the opening ceremony of temple in 1997 and invited leaders of other religions to lecture to Buddhist followers. Beopjeong also addressed Catholics at Myeongdong Cathedral.

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