By Stephen Hong
A former Buddhist novice has burned herself to death in an apparent act of devotion to a monk who committed self-immolation last year to protest the government’s controversial Four Rivers Project.
The body of the woman, who was in her 40s and only identified by her surname ‘Lee,’ was found in front of a stupa (monument to house Buddhist relics) for the dead monk, the Venerable Munsu, at Jibosa temple, 200 kilometers southeast of Seoul, yesterday.
Police presume the death was suicide but are investigating the exact circumstances surrounding the incident.
According to an official from the Jogye Order, the country’s largest Buddhist denomination, Lee left a suicide note at the spot saying she was following Venerable Munsu’s will.
Venerable Munsu, 47, set himself on fire on a river bank near the Jibosa temple in May 2010, after demanding President Lee Myung-bak’s government “stop the river project immediately and try its best to serve poor people, not the rich.”
The Buddhist official said Lee was a former novice nun and devotee of the dead monk.
Father Hugo Park Jung-woo, secretary of the Korean bishops’ Committee for Justice and Peace, expressed his sadness at her death, saying she was another victim of the government’s disregard for ordinary people and nature.
The river project entails dredging and damming sections of the country’s major waterways.
The government claims it is to prevent flooding and pollution, but many opponents including religious people and environmentalists say it will have the opposite effect.