[LETTERS to the editor] A matter of faith?

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[LETTERS to the editor] A matter of faith?

I confess that I do not understand the intricacies of religion and politics nor the forces at play between church and state, but the protests by Buddhist monks against the Korean government confuse me. It appears contradictory to the life and teachings of the Buddha himself. Did he not give up a life of politics to find deeper meaning?

I thought that central to Buddhism was suffering as a basic tenet of faith. The goals of Buddhism are to be free from desire, engage in ethical conduct, altruistic behavior and renunciation of worldly matters.

Active participation in a protest appears to be in complete contradiction to these goals. I could never imagine the Buddha himself engaging in a protest. I do not question the rights of the Buddhist movement to protest, just the religious motivation which [seems] incongruous with the belief.

On the other hand, I hope that the president allows the protest on a religious rights basis; after all, he is an elder in a Protestant church. The church he belongs to is known for its protest against the Catholic state religion in ages past.

David Woelke, professor, Pusan National University

Tragedy of the Olympics

People the world over were very excited watching and cheering their national teams during the Beijing Olympics. But many people were also saddened by tragic realities beneath the surface of the Games.

As people can see, the top 10 countries in the Olympic medal standings are developed countries with strong political power. In the Athens Olympics, developed countries were also the top 10. At the bottom of the medal standings are countries with low GNP and weak political clout.

Many people would like to think that sports are not related to politics and athletes enter the playing field and compete with each other on equal footing. But is it truly equal? Possibly, in some sports like swimming where the outcome is determined by the athlete’s will to win and the results determined by technology - whereas in other sports, winners are determined by human judges who can make mistakes. Sports such as gymnastics have been riddled with accusations of tampering or biased judging often favoring athletes from politically stronger countries.

Larger countries with larger populations such as China, the U.S. and Russia, are more likely to rank high in the medal count. These countries can train their athletes more competitively. In contrast to the large countries, it is very hard to train as many talented athletes from smaller countries.

For Koreans, the tragedy of their nation’s division is highlighted when South and North Korean athletes have to compete against each other in some of the Olympic games. In the women’s individual archery match on Aug.14, when the North Korean athlete Kwon Un Sil, was matched against the American Mariana Avitia, South Korean spectators cheered Kwon loudly. The cheer warmed the hearts of people around the world because it seemed to be a small gesture toward unification between South and North Korea. However, they were reminded of the tragedy of division in the semifinal match for the bronze medal, when Kwon had to compete against South Korean athletes Park Sung Hyun and Yun Ok-Hee. It was very embarrassing when the South Korean crowd’s cheers echoed loudly in the archery field. Only cheers for Park and Yun were heard because there weren’t any North Korean spectators.

The 17 days of a splendid Olympic Games have ended, whereas tragedy in the Olympics remains. Behind the joy and excitement, there are hidden political, social, national and many other issues that need to be solved.

Choi Ayeon, Ilsan

*e-mail to eopinion@joongang.co.kr or via fax to 82-2-751-9219
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