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Gov`t Under Pressure to Fire Nat`l Police Chief

Posted September. 05, 2008 07:17,   


With Buddhist anger rising over the Lee Myung-bak administration’s alleged religious discrimination, the government is under growing pressure to fire National Police Agency Commissioner General Eo Cheong-soo.

The Ven. Jigwan, the chief executive of the country`s largest Buddhist order Jogye, expressed concern on the behalf of Buddhist circles yesterday in talks with Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Yu In-chon at Jogye Temple in Seoul.

Jigwan said, “Some people saw conflict between religions, but this is not true. The major issue is discrimination by certain public officials against Buddhism. To our regret, we`ve worried that the president seems not to exactly understand (what is wrong), and the presidential office has tried to blame others.”

“What is the worse (for public servants) than national division? Religious discrimination by certain religious and exclusive conservatives are more problematic.”

In response, Yu said, “President Lee Myung-bak has shown his strong will to enact a special law to prevent religious discrimination. As culture minister, I have also actively promoted revision of related laws and educated public officials on this issue.”

Despite growing calls for the police chief`s dismissal from the ruling Grand National Party and the Buddhist community, the administration seems to support Eo.

A key presidential official said, “Few discussions have been made over firing the police chief. There seems to be a host of misunderstandings and I believe the controversy will die down as the misunderstandings get resolved.”

"If an event has a beginning, it must also have an end. In the same way, if a tunnel has entrance, it must have an exit. When this misconception is resolved, everything will be back to normal.”

Presidential officials say Eo relied on law enforcement to restore law and order when candlelight rallies against the resumption of U.S. beef imports occurred, and that firing him for that reason will discourage morality among public servants and threaten state administration.

“Dismissal of the police chief for fulfilling his duty will invite another chaotic situation in society,” said one official.

The presidential office has reviewed how to reconcile with the Buddhist circle through dialogue with President Lee instead of firing Eo. Such measures include President Lee’s speech at a meeting with Buddhist leaders or his invitation of the Jogye’s supreme patriarch, the Ven. Beopjeon, to the presidential mansion.

Eo also reiterated his intent not to resign. National Police Agency spokesman Choi Gwang-hwa said, “In a recent high-level staff meeting, the police chief stressed the maintenance of public security over the Chuseok holidays and urged police officers to faithfully carry out their duties without being swayed by the recent issue.”

ddr@donga.com dunanworld@donga.com