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Bongeunsa Station vs. COEX Station

Posted March. 05, 2015 07:21,   


A video clip capturing the trainees of a mission praying for the collapse of a Buddhist temple in the Gangnam district of Seoul was posted on YouTube in October 2010. The temple is Bongeunsa, which has a long tradition of producing high priests such as Great Buddhist Monk Seosan and Samyeong since its construction under King Wonseong of the Shilla Dynasty in 794. The video was criticized particularly by the Buddhist community. After the mission trainees` prayer while walking around the temple became controversial, they made an apology at the temple. Monk Myeongjin, the chief monk of the temple, proposed a discussion to promote communication between different religions.

Protestants strongly oppose the name of a subway station on line 9 to be opened soon – Bongeunsa station. They claim that the name should be changed to COEX Station, which includes a building close to the station, instead of using the name of the temple. Some church groups decided to file a petition for a provisional injunction to ban the use of the name and start a drive of collecting signatures for opposition. The Buddhist community seems to be puzzled, saying, “COEX is less than 30 years old but Bongeunsa is over 1,200-year-old cultural heritage.” The community says why people take issue only with Bongeunsa despite many other station names, which were named after temples such as Mangwolsa, Baekyangsa, Huibangsa and Jikjisa.

Protestant groups argue that Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon who is pro-Buddhist might have intervened. Mayor Park served as a future committee chairman of the temple from 2007 to 2010 before his inauguration as a mayor.

The Seoul metropolitan city said, “The name was decided after three meetings based on the idea that the name of a station is considered in the order of an old place name, cultural heritage and a public building becoming a proper noun.” A website poll found on Tuesday that COEX beat Bongeunsa 52 to 48. Some claim that the change of the result -- Bongeunsa was leading 70 to 30 until in the morning – was due to the mobilization of pollsters by some groups. The temple also appealed its believers to participate in an Internet survey before the station name was determined. They are even now.

Bongeunsa is part of Buddhist culture but is also part of our traditional culture. It used to own the land where COEX stands and the land that Hyundai Motor Company purchased from KEPCO, which were later expropriated for the development of the Gangnam district. If the station name is changed, the Buddhist community will strongly oppose it. It is not desirable that this issue is escalated into a conflict between religions. Wouldn’t it be a compromise to name it “Bongeunsa Station (COEX)”?