religious opposition to development

This isn’t a comprehensive post on the issue by any means, but I’m going to start posting bits and pieces as they build towards a more coherent research project.

In March 2011, various religious groups in Korea—Protestants, Won Buddhists, Catholics, etc.—held events to oppose The Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, Lee Myung-bak administration’s controversial and costly attempt to boost construction and development at the risk of significant environmental degradation. (Check out the highly biased and woefully inadequate Wikipedia entry on this, and my blog post in 2008 on the earlier incarnation of this project as the Grand Canal project.) Much of the opposition has been organized both by environmental activists and religious groups recognizing this as an astounding threat to rural livelihood and ecological integrity. There have been countless faith-based events emphasizing religion’s role as stewards of the natural environment.

I’ve been focusing on Buddhists for a while since they’re mounting the most visible opposition, but here’s a short article with an intriguing image that caught my eye.

Catholics protest Four River Restoration Project

The banner reads, “To defend the rivers and lands of life, we can not stop farming or the Masses.” According to the article, the participants shouted slogans like “Farming or Masses can not be stopped!” and “Four Rivers Project must be stopped immediately!” It was a nationally coordinated event, with over 1,500 Catholics attending “Mass for Life and Peace” held not only in Seoul and the Gyeonggi region, but also Daejeon, Daegu, Jeonju, and Gwangju.

It’s interesting to see how “life” carries multiple meanings in this context—nature as God-given life, farming and land cultivation as life, and religion as a way towards eternal life. And of course, anything “pro-life” in the Catholic context reminds me of anti-abortion rhetoric in the US.

Here are the Catholic News Korea stories tagged with Four Rivers Project.