Jogye Order under fire after video reveals monks gambling, drinking

SOUTH KOREA - The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the nation's largest Buddhist sect, came under fire on Thursday after a video clip from last month of high-profile monks gambling and drinking at a luxury hotel in Jangseong, South Jeolla Province, was revealed.

A former member of the order's head office lodged a complaint to the prosecution, accusing eight monks of playing poker games involving multi-million won wagers a day before attending a memorial service for a deceased Zen Master at Baekyang Temple on April 24.

A spokesman for the Jogye Order told The Korea Herald that it has been conducting an internal investigation since last week. But Ven. Seongho said in his complaint that he felt the urge to request an intensive investigation by the prosecution because the high-ranking monks won't be punished unless the members of the order's central council agree to do so. The eight monks include two spiritual leaders, high-ranking monks and also abbots from branch temples.

The video of the monks gambling was taken by a hidden surveillance camera installed in the hotel room. Ven. Seongho told a local media source that he found the video file on a flash drive placed at a temple by an unknown person. It shows the monks gambling, drinking and smoking at a hotel presidential suite from the evening on April 23 until the next morning, claimed Ven. Seongho in his complaint to the prosecution.

With the case stirring up heated controversy, members of the Jogye Order's head office offered to resign en masse on Thursday. Ven. Jaseung, leader of Jogye Order, has not decided whether to accept their resignations but ordered severe disciplinary actions against those involved. The Jogye Order plans to hold a press conference Friday to release a statement of apology to the nation.

However, the order said it will also investigate who installed the camera at the hotel, saying it also violates the law.

Insiders claim that there has been a political dispute at Baekyang Temple and that the hidden camera was probably installed by opponents to eliminate the eight monks involved in the case.

About 12 million Koreans are Buddhists, according to government data. Currently there are 25 Buddhist orders belonging to the Association of Korean Buddhist Orders, among which the Jogye Order is the largest.

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