New South Korean Orthodox Christians turn water source into contaminated source of pollutants

South Korea’s Health Ministry on Friday linked an increase in types of bacteria in local water supplies to an improvement in the resettlement of nearly 200,000 mostly Russian Orthodox Christians displaced from the global financial crisis, in a government report released on Friday.

During the past eight years, South Korea has spent millions of dollars in annual assistance to help new arrivals from central Asia settle into society. As a Russian Orthodox Christian, Christian Ecumenical Patriarchate still holds an important place in Russia, and under the Opus Dei order, which answers to the Orthodox pope, many of the Christians have been adjusting to a new life without a Russian identity. The Orthodox government of Moscow has spent $128 million from 2009 to 2015 to settle 1.3 million people, according to the Elgin survey, and 2013 showed that the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches spent more than $3.2 billion in the same period.

The Orthodox’ new presence has transformed water sources in South Korea into contaminated sources of pollutants. Each member of the church must be registered in a church to gain access to the water and will lose his or her water ration if they stray beyond their allotted areas. The Environment Ministry found 195 types of bacteria in almost 100 places that the church was using, mostly in water supplies, compared to 65 contaminated sites last year.

The agency attributed the increase in bacterial contamination to an increase in the number of church members and new generations from a southwestern corner of Korea that became a hotbed of conservative Christian groups.

The ministry said in the report that it would monitor water quality for the next two years to see if the number of bacteria increases. The Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox branch of the church each complained about the health ministry in various circles.

Lee Hae-u, the civic leader and environmental activist who released the report, said that his goal was to persuade the government to invest more in water quality.

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