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Installment would block sacred South Korean pilgrimage route


03-03-2017 14:04 BJT

(Source: CGTN)

The deployment of the controversial US THAAD anti-missile defense system to South Korea has raised worries among residents near the host site due to possible health concerns and economic risks. But, for one religious group, it may have an even bigger impact on its followers' way of life.

Early each morning, Kim Sung-hye and other Won Buddhist monks in the temple, wake up before the crack of dawn to pray before starting their day.

While Won Buddhism is a modernized form of Buddhism, there are still daily rituals embedded into their lifestyle.

But for the past half year, these daily rituals have been disrupted in a fight to guard their religion's sacred land.

"Seongju is the heart of our founding masters. We call this 'sacred land' because the divine was born here, sought truth here, and the divine walked here. That's why it's sacred," said Kim Sung-Hye, Won Buddhist Minister.

For Monk Kim Sung-hye and other Won Buddhists, daily prayers are now also held in a tent in protest of the deployment of an anti-missile defense system called THAAD.

The battery's installment would sit directly on top of the religion's sacred land that's over a century old.

It's a following that promotes peace.

Yet the defense system would block the route for their holy pilgrimage route.

"Sacred land cannot be any where. Even if the world is filled with land, we cannot move sacred land. So this place is really like my mother's land, the land of our soul and the center of our world. It cannot be moved. THAAD can be moved, but how can you move your soul," Kim Sung-Hye said.

The THAAD deployment announcement was originally made in July, but it was in August the government began considering a golf course owned by the Lotte Group--which runs along the religion's sacred grounds.

It was then Won Buddhists began to protest the deal.

Now, they've vowed to continue.

"Us Won Buddhists, no matter where THAAD goes in Korea, we will fight it and oppose it because Won Buddhism loves peace and follows peace," said Son Beop-Son, Won Buddhist.

Wednesday marked what could be the last day Won Buddhism followers could walk freely through their sacred grounds, with Lotte signing a land-swap deal with the country's defense ministry.

Along this path, and across that ridge, are all part of the pilgrimage Won Buddhists normally take. But with the expected THAAD installment, it's a journey they may never be able to take again.

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