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North, South rebuild temple

by Cho Woo-suk, JoongAng Daily, November 22, 2004

Seoul, South Korea -- Buddhist groups from South and North Korea met Saturday to celebrate the start of a cross-national spiritual mission: The rebuilding of one of the first Buddhist temples built in Korea.

To celebrate the reconstruction of the main hall of the Singyesa temple complex, near Mount Geumgang, more than 600 people, including top Buddhist priests from South Korea's Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and the North's Joseon Buddhists' Federation, government officials from the two nations, and members of Hyundai Asan, the South Korean company that has spearheaded the development of the area as a tourism resort, attended.

Singyesa, a temple established during the Shilla Dynasty in the 6th century, was one of the four representative Buddhist temples on Mount Geumgang, but it was destroyed in a bomb attack during the Korean War in 1951.

"People say Mount Geumgang is beautiful, but we always felt something important was missing here," said Yoo Hong-joon, head of South Korea's Cultural Properties Administration. "The rebuilding of Singyesa will bring the harmonious relation of the beauty of nature and humanity back to this area,"

The reconstruction of the temple's main hall started in April. Photographs taken during the Japanese colonial period in the early 20th century were used as sources to ensure authenticity.

The remaining 21 structures at Singyesa will be rebuilt over the next four years, using 8.5 billion won ($8 million) the South Korean government has set aside for the restoration project.

A Hyundai Asan official at the celebration said the restored temple is likely to be used as a tourist site for those visiting Mount Geumgang, rather than as an actual monastery for Buddhists to worship in.

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