Whistle-blower accuses monks of paying for sex

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Whistle-blower accuses monks of paying for sex

Following the recent scandal that exposed monks of the largest Buddhist sect in Korea for gambling while intoxicated, the whistle-blower, Venerable Seongho, reported further allegations yesterday that Jogye Order monks gambled overseas, kept mistresses, had secret wives, frequented room salons and even paid for sex.

Ahead of prosecutor questioning, Venerable Seongho, a former official of the Executive Office of the Korean Buddhist Jogye Order, stated yesterday morning in a radio interview with MBC that while “this may seem shocking to civilians, [gambling] in executive office gatherings is customary.”

And gambling is not just limited to Korea, he said, as monks “go overseas to the Philippines, Macao or Las Vegas and change out of their monk robes” to play slots or pachinko. Some monks lost hundreds of millions of won gambling overseas, he said.

The venerable further stated that Venerable Jaseung, the executive director of the Executive Office of the Jogye Order, was not free from blame either.

“Venerable Jaseung and Venerable Myeongjin in the past went to the Sinbad Room Salon in Gangnam for full service and paid for sex,” he said.

“Because of the Venerable Jaseung and Venerable Myeongjin prostitution incident, I held a one-person rally, but Venerable Myeongjin stated that he didn’t do it. But Venerable Jaseung didn’t say anything.”

Venerable Myeongjin was the former chief monk of Seoul’s Bongeun Temple and did not comment on the allegations yesterday.

Venerable Jaseung began his 100 days of repentance to represent the Jogye Order yesterday, to which Venerable Seongho stated on the radio, “It’s all just a show.

He needs to go drown himself in the Han River for something like this. Isn’t it embarrassing?”

The Jogye Order’s Executive Office responded by addressing Venerable Seongho by his real name, Jeong Han-yeong, and said if his allegations against Venerable Jaseung are confirmed to be false, they will immediately file charges against Seongho for slander.

They stated that a senior monk will hold a rebuttal interview with the same radio program to reveal the truth.

During the elections for the executive head of the Jogye Order in 2009, Venerable Seongho was accused of handing out libelous pamphlets about the current director, Venerable Jaseung, and received disciplinary action by having his monkhood revoked, which was overruled by the courts.

Venerable Seongho informed the police last week that eight monks of the order gambled with hundreds of millions of won in April 23 in a suite in the Baegyang Hotel in Jangseong County in South Jeolla.

The venerable received video footage of the gambling scene from an anonymous source.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office called upon Venerable Seongho yesterday to question him on his allegations.

After questioning the venerable, prosecutors plan to summon the eight monks involved in the case.

Before questioning, the venerable stated yesterday morning to the press at the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho District, southern Seoul, “There are many more additional incidents to be exposed.”

“I can confirm it,” the venerable said, regarding the room salon incident.

“It’s a fact that not only the Jogye Order but any dog walking past knows. Everybody knows, but why are you asking me? Are monks that intimidating? Are they that privileged? It needs to be investigated. By martyring myself, the Jogye Order needs to be born again this time.”

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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