SEOUL, South Korea – Hundreds of South Korean Buddhist monks and believers offered prayers Wednesday for more than 1.93 million cows, pigs and other animals that have been put to death in the country's worst outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
The Buddhists endured subfreezing temperatures to hold the rite at Jogye Temple, the headquarters of the Jogye Order, South Korea's largest Buddhist sect.
Some monks clad in gray and saffron robes offered white chrysanthemums — a traditional Korean symbol of grief — and bowed in front of photos of animals inside the temple in central Seoul.
They also bowed toward two big golden statues of Buddha and chanted sutras before circling around a pagoda and burning mortuary tablets and incense.
The animals — mostly pigs — have been killed in an attempt to halt the outbreak, which was reported in November, according to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security.
The highly infectious disease is often fatal for cloven-hoofed animals including cows, sheep, pigs and goats, causing blisters on the mouth and feet.
A monk named Hyechong said the temple held the rite to help guide the spirits of the animals to heaven...
After praying at the temple, Park Young-hae, 74, wrote a message of condolence on a small, white banner and attached it to a bulletin board. "I hope that the dead animals will go to paradise," she said.
Another banner read: "It must have been painful and you cried a lot. I hope that you go to a good place and enjoy happiness."