SEOUL, March 21 (Korea Bizwire) — Disputes over Muslim facilities 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 campground in a “strategic location near the military demarcation line.”
The civic groups responded to recent reports that a 23,000-square-meter Muslim campground would be set up in the county, raising concerns that it may undermine the local economy as well as security.
Earlier this year, plans to build a two-story mosque in a residential district near Kyungpook National University in Daegu were met by harsh protests from local residents.
Disputes surrounding Muslim facilities are expected to grow with the increasing Muslim population in the country.
The Korean Association of Middle Eastern Studies (KAMES) reported that ever since the first mosque was built in Itaewon, Seoul in 1976, some 150 mosques and musallas (prayer rooms) have been set up throughout the country.
While there are no official statistics available, experts claim that there are around 200,000 Muslims in South Korea.
“Beneath the disputes over Muslim facilities and quarrels over the resettlement of the Afghan ‘special contributors’ in Ulsan is the stereotype that Muslims are dangerous,” said Lee Hee-soo, a professor of cultural anthropology in Hanyang University
Lee said that it is an exaggeration to assert that most mosques are built in residential districts and pose a threat to local residents.
KAMES conducted a survey on 55 mosques inside the country, 65.6 percent of which were located in old commercial districts, redevelopment zones, or the suburbs.
Experts call upon 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, a senior researcher from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Institute of Middle East Studies.
H. M. Kang (email@example.com)