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Nun's hunger protest

The Korea Herald, Jan 2, 2005

Seoul, South Korea -- We advise Buddhist nun Jiyul to stop her solitary hunger strike, now approaching the 100-day mark. The Buddhist community should also do its part to bring the protest action to an end by taking the 47-year-old clergyperson to a hospital. If tragedy happens, which is quite possible considering her extremely deteriorated condition, her associates may be subject to criminal charges for grave negligence.

Jiyul, a resident monk at Naewon Temple on Mount Cheonseong has made a great contribution to raising people's environmental awareness since she began her protest campaign four years ago against the construction of a 13 kilometer tunnel through the mountain. The mountainous area has a unique marsh which is known as the habitat of some rare plants and animals, including Korean clawed salamander. Now, it is time for her and her supporters to take a step back.

Her on-and-off fast continued at a location near the presidential mansion Cheong Wa Dae until a week ago when the authorities finally told Jiyul that they cannot accept her request for a three-month delay of blasting work for the tunnel, a part of the final section of the Seoul-Busan high-speed railway, and a new environmental survey. She disappeared from her fasting place, causing deep worries about her next move, but she reappeared at a Buddhist hall in Seoul's Seocho-dong on Sunday to continue her hunger protest.

Priests at Jungto Society said they could not defy her resolve. They told the press that she had asked them to follow her cause if she died. It sounded like they could not do anything but respect her will even if she faced certain death. The authorities should immediately intervene and force the nun into a hospital.

Random opinion polls on Internet sites overwhelmingly call for an end to the hunger strike, which many found to have gone beyond the proper mode of making a civil petition to the government. On environmental issues, what is most important is the comparison of public benefits between those from the preservation of a certain segment of the nature and those from the development of that part of the nature for industrial interests. That kind of comparison is difficult because different values are involved but we have the court of law to make a final judgment.

And, a hunger protest is tantamount to threatening the other side with human life, which is the last thing permissible even if it is the protester's own.

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