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Seoul Transport Map Omits Names of Buddhist Temples

Chosun Ilbo, June 24, 2008

Seoul, South Korea -- The Seoul metropolitan area transport information system Algoga (“find your way”) is at the center of controversy after it was revealed that it omits the names of the major Buddhist temples.

The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the largest Buddhist order in Korea, argues this clearly represents the evangelical tendency of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

According to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, typing in the names of Seoul’s major temples like Jogye Temple and Bongeun Temple on Monday, the system indicates their location on the map with an arrow, but their names do not appear. For example, in case of Bongeun Temple, the names of seven to eight small and medium-sized nearby churches are marked on the map with a cross and their names, but not the temple. The Jogye and Guryong Temples and Nungin Sunwon are not marked on the map. The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism appears on the map for the headquarters of the order but not the Jogye Temple.

The Ministry of Construction and Transportation, the precursor of the current ministry, invested W 1.5 billion (US$1 = W1,039) in Algoga, which provides information on public transport in the Seoul metropolitan area, in 2003. At that time, the names of Buddhist temples were marked on the map. After criticisms that Algoga does not contain enough information, Korea geoSpatial Information and Communication, which participated in developing the system from the beginning and was commissioned to maintain the system, updated Algoga in April this year. That is when the names of Buddhist temples were dropped.

An average of 15,000 to 20,000 people visit the Algoga site daily. After it stirred up controversy, the ministry hurriedly called a press conference to explain the omission was a “mistake,” saying the person in charge did not double-check.

Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Minister Chung Jong-hwan plans to make an apology to senior Buddhist figures. The Bus Transportation Business Association, which runs the site, also apologized, saying it was perplexed by the number of protest calls, and sorry “to have occasioned Buddhist members of society so much concern and anxiety.”

Korea geoSpatial said it has not entered the names “of some temples, parks and golf clubs” in the upgrading process and will finish entering the information within the week.

LayBuddhist.Net and the Religious Peace Council of the Jogye Order released a statement on Monday that called for “an immediate revamp of Algoga, which eradicated 1,700 years of Buddhist traditions and culture” and for the resignation of the transport minister. The statement says the names were left out intentionally at the orders of someone in authority.

“We condemn the religious two-facedness of the Lee Myung-bak administration, and demand strict punishment of officials and relevant institutions who intend to serve the benefit of a particular religious group,” the statement said.

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