Russia Wants to Build Orthodox Church in Seoul

The Russian Embassy has been asking for a piece of land in Seoul to open a Russian Orthodox Church, diplomatic sources say. Furthermore, what Russia has in mind is the spot of the former Russian legation, where Emperor Gojong (1852-1919) took refuge for one year to escape the Japanese who were planning to assassinate him. The place is now designated as the nation's Historic Site 253.

Russian Orthodox is a dominant religion in Russia, as the number of believers accounts for 15 to 20 percent of the population. There's no Russian Orthodox Church currently open in Korea, and Russian residents in Seoul gather at an orthodox church in Mapo, northern Seoul.

The initial request was made by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II during President Lee Myung-bak's visit to Russia in September last year.

President Lee is known to have said he'd consider it.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade followed up on the request by asking the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism if they would agree to the proposal - both rejected it.

"Fundamentally, the request is against the Korean Constitution that states the separation of church and state," said Kim Se-ra, an official at the ministry. Additionally, it isn't in line with religious parity, she added.

"We have forwarded the response to the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church."