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In S. Korea, Taxing Gambling Monks

Posted: May 11, 2012


The leadership of Jogye, South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, is being thrown into question following the disclosure Thursday of a video clip showing monks gambling, drinking and smoking in a hotel room.

The monks were seen playing poker with hundreds of millions of won, which is believed to be from donations from believers.

Many within and outside the Buddhist circle sees the case as only the tip of the iceberg, saying the government must take action to address corrupt practices in religious groups. Some activists urged the government to introduce a “tax on religion” in a bid to make their spending of donations and expenditure transparent.

Behind the revelation is an internal conflict between the head of the Jogye Order, Ven. Jaseung, and his critics.

Ven. Seongho, who had been expelled from the order for defaming the Buddhist leader, brought the gambling case to the surface by filing a complaint with the prosecution to call for an investigation. He has been in conflict with the Jogye Order’s executive committee ever since he raised questions about Ven. Jaseung’s qualifications during the 2010 election for the executive chief position. Ven. Seongho was also a candidate for the position.

He has filed six complaints to the court since his expulsion but all of them have been dismissed.

The gambling case was disclosed recently by Ven. Seongho after he submitted a video clip to the prosecution as evidence. The footage was taken with a hidden camera. Ven. Seongho claimed that he found a USB drive containing the footage on the floor of his temple.

Ven. Jaseung issued a written apology Friday saying that he expressed regret to all Buddhist believers nationwide for the inappropriate incident.

Read the rest of the report here.


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