By and large, PyeongChang has gone out of its way to welcome the world for the 2018 Winter Olympics. But not everyone in the South Korean host city is feeling the Olympic spirit…especially Muslims…who were expecting a private prayer room to accommodate their religious needs.
YAHOO Sports While just 0.2 percent of South Korea’s population of 51 million is Muslim, the KTO decided to build a prayer room to promote a “Muslim-friendly Korea” during the Winter Olympics, increase the number of Muslim tourists.
The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has announced that it will no longer go forward with plans to set up a mobile multi-faith (which ONLY Muslims ever use) prayer room for spectators in Gangneung, where all of the Games’ indoor events are taking place, following “strong opposition” from anti-Muslim protestors, according to Al Jazeera’s Haeyoon Kim and Faras Ghani.
“We sat down with them for talks, but in the end, we had to cancel the plans,” Gangneung city government tourism division chief Kang Suk-ho told Al Jazeera. The KTO’s Kim Yeong-ju told Korea Exposé’s Ho Kyeong Jang that opposition to the prayer rooms was so strong that local officials “could no longer do their jobs.”
Much of the hostility has flowed from the PyeongChang Olympics Gangwon Citizens’ Islam Countermeasure Association, a relatively new group that pushed a petition against the prayer room via Google. The petition — which stoked fear about radical Islam in the South Korean province of Gangwon — has collected more than 56,000 digital signatures.
“The government has already spent too much of the taxpayers’ money on the Games, and we shouldn’t spend more building a prayer room for Muslims,” Seo Ji-hyun, the director of operations at the Islam Countermeasure Association, told Al Jazeera. He also suggested that Muslims should refrain from prayer at the Olympic Games.
Only the media would call this an “interfaith” prayer room. Muslims know it’s a Muslim-only prayer room as you can see in this promotion video: