SEOUL, March 21 (Korea Bizwire) — Disputes over Muslim settlements are spreading across the country.
Last week, civic groups held a press conference in the border county of Yeoncheon to protest against the construction of a Muslim campsite in a “strategic location near the military demarcation line”.
Civic groups have responded to recent reports that a 23,000 square meter Muslim campground will be set up in the county, raising concerns that it could harm the local economy as well as security.
Earlier this year, plans to build a two-story mosque in a residential area near Kyungpook National University in Daegu were met with strong protests from local residents.
Disputes surrounding Muslim settlements are expected to increase with the growing Muslim population in the country.
The Korea Association for Middle East Studies (KAMES) reported that since the construction of the first mosque in Itaewon, Seoul in 1976, some 150 mosques and musallas (prayer halls) have been established across the country.
Although there are no official statistics available, experts say there are around 200,000 Muslims in South Korea.
“Beneath the disputes over Muslim settlements and the wrangling over the resettlement of Afghan ‘special contributors’ to Ulsan lurks the stereotype that Muslims are dangerous,” said Lee Hee-soo, professor of cultural anthropology at the university. from Hanyang.
Lee said it is an exaggeration to claim that most mosques are built in residential neighborhoods and pose a threat to local residents.
KAMES conducted a survey of 55 mosques in the interior of the country, of which 65.6% were located in former commercial districts, redevelopment areas or suburbs.
Experts cite the need to collect statistical data and research to better understand the Muslim population.
“The population and housing census excludes Islam as one of the options in the religion checkbox, preventing researchers from collecting useful data,” said Baek Seung-hoon, senior researcher at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Institute of Middle East Studies.
HM Kang ([email protected])