These joint ceremonies were the first to be carried out by a South Korean Buddhist delegation visiting the North this year. At the services held that day, Lee Gyu-ryong, chief secretary of the North Korean Buddhist Federation said, “If Buddhists from both Koreas put enough effort into it, there will come a day when this very spot, Shingye Temple, can be reborn as a genuine venue for the reunification of our nation.”
Head the Jogye Order’s delegation, Ven. Ji-hong, said in his opening remarks, “I am dismayed by seeing a shroud of silence brought to the prayers for reunification of Buddhists from both Koreas at Shingye Temple following the suspension of tourism to Mt. Kumgang”.
He went on to say, “With the opportunity provided by joint Buddhist services, Buddhists from both Koreas can combine their energy and insights to preserve Mt. Kumgang, which is both a holy site for the people of Korea, and a symbol of reunification.” The two sides also upheld the ideals of the June 15th South-North Joint Declaration (from the 2000 South-North summit) and the October 4th South-North Joint Declaration (from the 2007 North-South summit) in their official joint declaration for removing the threat of war from the peninsula.
Their joint statement reads, “We, the Buddhists of both Koreas, will follow the road set forth in the North-South joint declarations through cooperation with a Buddhist heart, to rid our nations of antagonism and suspicion, tension and combativeness and will continue our alliance to eliminate the threat of war and guarantee a permanent peace.” Ahead of the joint Buddhist services, there was also an official presentation of a final draft of a report on the excavation of the Shingye Temple.
The Shingye Temple, one of four major temples on Mt. Kumgang, was first built during the sixth year of the rule of Shilla king, Beop-heung (519 AD), but was destroyed during the Korean War. It was later restored on Oct. 13, 2007, through the cooperation of the (South’s) Jogye Order and the (North) Korean Buddhist Federation. The joint Buddhist services this time was agreed to during a set of talks between Buddhists of both Koreas held at Kaesong on Oct. 5.
Including the Ven. Ji-hong, the South’s delegation was comprised of 19 people, while 22 people attended from the North, including Chief Secretary Lee Gyu-ryong, Vice-Secretary Cha Geum-cheol, and the Ven. Jin-gak of Shingye Temple.