Ven. Seongho accuses president of the nation’s largest Buddhist sect of soliciting prostitution
Jogye Order, South Korea’s largest Buddhist sect, was plunged further into turmoil after a whistleblower monk accused the order’s president of procuring prostitution.
Monks are seen in front of the head office of the Jogye Order in Anguk-dong, northern Seoul, Wednesday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Ven. Seongho, who last week exposed an all-night gambling and drinking party among his fellow monks, made the new allegations targeted, this time, at Most Ven. Jaseung, president of the Jogye Order.
The whistle-blower said on a radio show that the incumbent president and Ven. Myungjin, another senior monk, visited a “room salon” and paid for sexual services in 2001. Room salons are drinking establishments that often facilitate prostitution. He also claimed that many high-ranking monks have a secret wife on their family register. Ven. Seongho warned that further damaging secrets would be divulged.
Later on Tuesday, the Buddhist sect made its own accusations against Ven. Seongho. In a statement, the Jogye Order claimed that the monk had attempted to rape a Buddhist nun in 2004 and bought a luxury car using temple funds. The group added that it filed a libel complaint against Ven. Seongho with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ office.
Ven. Jeongnyum, head of the department of regulation at Jogye Order, also denied the allegation that the Most Ven. Jaseung solicited prostitution, saying that he did go to the room salon in Gangnam in Seoul but left the venue because he thought it was inappropriate.
Concerning the controversial video footage showing monks gambling and drinking, Ven. Jeongnyum said the gambling was merely a “pastime,” just like other games played by the elderly to prevent dementia.
Meanwhile, rumors are rife that Ven. Myungjin, once loyal to the Most Ven. Jaseung but now regarded as an opponent, ordered Ven. Seongho to reveal the existence of the video footage. Ven. Myungjin, former abbot of Bongeun Temple in Samseong-dong, Seoul, had conflict with the Most Ven. Jaseung some years ago after he tried to put the temple under Jogye’s direct control. In an interview with a local newspaper, however, Ven. Myungjin denied that he had any involvement in the release of the footage.
A group of Buddhists are urging both the Jogye Order and Ven. Seongho to stop attacking each other.
“We, as Buddhists, feel strongly responsible for this incident. However, Chung Han-young (Ven. Seongho) should stop tearing the Jogye Order apart by making coarse remarks,” said Buddha Net, an online community of Buddhists in Korea.
The scandal led to the resignation of six senior leaders of the Jogye Order last week, followed by an official apology along with a 100-day meditation period for repentance from Ven. Jaseung.
Jogye Order is the largest sect of Korean Buddhism, with 10 million followers. Its executive body oversees an annual budget of 30 billion won ($25 million).
By Cho Chung-un and Yoon Min-shik
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막장 스님들.. 룸살롱, 도박,성폭행까지??
지난 주 도박파문으로 시작된 조계종내의 갈등이 연이은 폭로로 더욱 가열되고 있다.
이번 달 9일 종단 내 승려들의 도박 사실을 고발했던 성호스님은 15일, 총무원장 자승스님과 명진스님이 강남 룸살롱에 가서 성매수를 했으며 몇몇 스님들은 숨겨둔 아내가 있다고 추가로 폭로했다.
여기에 대응해 조계종 총무원은 보도자료를 통해 성호스님이 2004년에 비구니 스님을 성폭행하려다 저항에 부딪히자 스님과 모친을 폭행했다고 맞불 폭로에 나섰다. 더불어 성호스님이 사찰의 돈으로 외제차를 구입해 타고 다닌 적도 있다고 주장했다.
여파가 커지자 조계종은 뒷수습에 나섰다. 도박 파문에 연류된 승려들이 속한 종단 정책모임 ‘무차회’를 해체하고, 총무원 인원 네 명을 교체한 데 이어 100일동안 108배 참회 정진에 들어가는 등 쇄신안을 발표한 것.
뒤이어 호법부장 정념스님은 16일 ‘시선집중’에 출연해 승려들의 도박은 판돈이 400~500만원에 불과하다며 ‘치매예방을 위한’ 내기문화 겸 심심풀이였다고 해명했다.
앞서 15일에는 명진스님이 ‘룸살롱 의혹’에 대해 룸살롱에 간 것은 사실이지만 성매매는 거짓이고 술도 마시지 않았다고 밝혔다.
그러나 성호스님이 승려들의 필리핀 원장 도박과 등 추가 폭로를 예고해 파문이 쉽게 가라앉지는 않을 전망이다.