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Korean floods: Many temples affected

The Buddhist Channel, Aug 1, 2011

Seoul, South Korea -- As the deadly flooding and landslide which hit much of the country's capital Seoul on July 28, 2011 begins to subside, the aftermath have begun to reveal large parts of the city inundated with debris, mud and partially incapacitated infrastructure.

Dramatic video of heavy floods, deadly landslides in South Korea

Disaster officials in South Korea said Thursday the death toll from rain-spawned floods and mudslides that hit the country had risen to 67, including 14 people missing.

Meanwhile, Korea's only Buddhist television network BTN reports that many temples situated along slopes and on the hillsides have been badly affected by the bad weather.

The following list, compiled by the Jogye Order Social Awareness disaster relief team provide brief details of the damage encountered by the Buddhist temples and organizations concerned (as of July 28th, 4pm):

  • Bodeok Temple (Umyeon mountain) - One death, temple building, sleeping quarters destroyed.
  • Jajae Hermitage  (City/Province: Dongducheon) -  Stone embankment destroyed, landslide, mud, debris within premises.
  • Bonggook Temple (Jungleung) - Sections of stone embankment destroyed
  • Kumgang-jongsa (Kwangmyeong) - Inflow of landslide, mud, debris within premises
  • ChunChook Temple (Dobong mountain) - Flood within the temple office
  • Daesung Temple (Umyeon mountain) - Inflow of landslide, mud, debris within premises, temple's entrance destroyed
  • BTN Musangsa Temple (Bangbae dong, Seoul) - Flooding and inflow of landslide within the building; mud, debris within premises. BTN staff in ICU
  • Cheontae Order Kwanmun Temple (Umyeon mountain) - Estimate of 5 billion KRW worth of damage
  • Bokcheon Temple (Busan) - 2 main temple buildings (Myungbujeon and Chilsung gak) destroyed

Volunteers from the Jogye Buddhist order consisting of more than 100 emergency dispatch relief workers have been sent to assist the affected temples. Based on eye witness reports, many of the temples in and around foothills have been cut off by the landslides, with scenes of bridges washed away by floods a common sight.

A spokesperson from the Jogye emergency dispatch relief have requested assistance for urgent materials such as food and bottled water, batteries and lanterns in aid of those affected by the tragedy.

They are also requesting help for supplies of sandbags to prevent further soil erosion along steep slopes due to broken embankments, fallen trees and rock falls, which have blocked road access to many of the temples.

"We continue to be concerned about further collapse of sediments, and the difficulty involved in bringing heavy machineries to the affected areas. This have hampered our recovery operations," the spokesperson added.

The Korea Meteorological Administration forecast rain to continue through Friday.

About Korean Buddhist Temples

With 1,700 years of Buddhist history, Korea is home to numerous temples scattered around the nation that preserve a rich, ancient heritage of Buddhist culture. Korean Buddhist temples are often nestled deep in mountainous regions, and set near the natural beauty of rivers, valleys, or the sea.

Their locations offer a great refuge for those seeking peace of mind or a quiet place to meditate. Temples also serve as residences for monks and devotees who practice or share the teachings of Buddha. Recently, a growing number of temples have developed temple stay programs for meditation, rest, or just to experience temple life, drawing increasing numbers of visitors every year.

Each temple is unique in its own way. Some of the major temples are: Tongdosa Temple and Beopheungsa Temple where sarira (relics of the Buddha) are kept; Haeinsa Temple, depository of the Goryeo Daejanggyeong (Tripitaka Koreana wooden printing blocks) which are on UNESCO’s Memory of the World list; Bongeunsa Temple and Hwagyesa Temple, well-known for temple stay programs; and Baekdamsa Temple and Naksansa Temple with their splendid natural landscapes.

Noted for their role in preserving the distinctive character of Korean Buddhism, these temples are also the country's vanguard against the on-slaught of aggressive Christian evangelism. For details of this issue, please refer to this "Chronology of Fifteen Years of Incidents Against Buddhism in South Korea"

See also: List of donors in aid of temples affected by the Korean floods

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