A secret video of Buddhist monks drinking, smoking and playing high-stakes poker circulated the Internet and Korean television networks, stirring controversy in South Korea where gambling is illegal and prompting six leaders from the Jogye Order to quit. However, new information emerged on Tuesday that two unidentified monks also paid for sex during a night of drunk follies.
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, an exiled, former-senior monk named Seong-ho said during a morning radio show that two leaders of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism engaged in prostitution, paying for sex at a room salon, a bar in Seoul.
Seong-ho did not give any additional information regarding the additional incident, namely the date it happened. But the Jogye Order, which comprises about a fifth of the population with 15 million followers, denied the claims in a statement, adding a suit was filed for libel for the report. The original incident, however, was undisputed by the Order and an official apology was issued.
The gambling video emerged just days before Koreans observe the holiest day of their calendar: the celebration of the birth of Buddha. It was reportedly filmed at a luxury hotel in April where the monks were attending a memorial service for another Buddhist monk. The group is seen smoking, drinking alcohol and playing poker for 13 hours, where Seong-ho said the stakes of the game were about $900,000.
The stakes for 13 hours of gambling were more than 1 billion won ($875,300), Seong-ho told Reuters on Friday.
Seong-ho reported the incident to prosecutors, as gambling is outlawed outside of casinos and frowned upon by Buddhists.
Basically, Buddhist rules say don't steal. Look at what they did, they abused money from Buddhists for gambling, Seong-ho said.
Seong-ho obtained the hidden camera footage from an unnamed source, whose name he refused to release in fear of threats, on a thumb drive. However, the Wall Street Journal points out that while Seong-ho, whose real name is Jeong Han-young, was expelled from the Jogye Order last year for bad behavior, including violence and spreading groundless rumors.
After the video aired on South Korean television networks, many Buddhists were outraged of the behavior of the group of monks.
A group of monks who gamble, drink and smoke in a hotel room is tainted in the eyes of all people in the nation, civic group Buddhist Solidarity for Reform said in a statement to Reuters.
The uproar prompted the Jogye order to make a public apology, vowing self-repentance.
We deeply apologize for the behavior of several monks in our order ... The monks who have caused public concern are currently being investigated and will be punished according to Buddhist regulations as soon as the truth is verified by the prosecution, head of the order Jaseung said in a statement to The Guardian Friday. Monks should be above worldly desires and serve as mentors to their followers. However, some have committed deeds that we feel too embarrassed to talk about.
Jaseung said the monks involved in the video will be investigated and punished accordingly.