Buddhist Monks' Smoking, Drinking And Gambling Scandal Sweeps South Korea

  on May 11 2012 12:09 PM

Six Buddhist monks were caught smack in the middle of a controversy, after a video showing the leaders performing illegal activities was aired on television networks, days ahead of a South Korean religious holiday marking Buddha's birth.

The controversial clip exposed the senior monks drinking, smoking and gambling with thousands in cash at stake. The incident, which reportedly happened in a luxury hotel room late April, was secretly taped and was released to media as evidence of their straying habits, Reuters reported.

A group of monks who gamble, drink and smoke in a hotel room is tainted in the eyes of all people in the nation, Buddhist Solidarity for Reform said according to the news service.

The stakes for 13 hours of gambling were more than 1 billion won ($875,300), senior monk Seongho was quoted saying to Reuters. Basically, Buddhist rules say don't steal. Look at what they did, they abused money from Buddhists for gambling.

The incident comes as a shock to the nation, where gambling activities especially the kinds based on property gain, are deemed illegal and is a punishable offense that carries a hefty penalty up to 5 million won (about $3,500).

However, gambling activities which are carried for the purpose of promoting tourism are acceptable but are permitted only in casinos located in the abandoned areas of Gangwon provice, Korean law says.

The identities of the monks in question were not revealed. However, the head of the Jogye Order, which the concerned monks belonged to, issued an apology on their behalf last Friday, adding that the group has also signed in their resignation. Identity of the person who captured on film the group's on-goings also remains undisclosed for reasons of safety, the report said. 

The scandal has also left many people upset in the country with the monks' wayward ways, in complete violation of the Buddhist code of conduct. The oldest religion in Korea and most of East Asia, Buddhism requires its disciples to follow a righteous life of strict discipline and meditation, besides complete detachment from the material world.

South Korea, which has a population of about 50 million as of now, was reported to have a Buddhist population of 22.8 percent, according to a 2007 census scale. Ninety percent of Buddhism followers reportedly come from the Jogye Order.

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