Buddhist leader to resign over alleged ethical violations

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Buddhist leader to resign over alleged ethical violations

The Venerable Seoljeong, president of Korea’s largest Buddhist order, announced his intention to resign on Wednesday in response to a host of allegations that have tarnished the organization’s reputation.

After talking to Seoljeong at the headquarters of the Jogye Order in central Seoul, another high-ranking monk announced to the press on his behalf that Seoljeong would resign as president of the organization before Aug. 16, when an emergency central council meeting is set to deal with the matter.

Seoljeong, 76, was elected president of the order last October, but has faced criticism from within and outside the organization for allegations including forgery of his academic background, embezzlement of organization funds and even fathering a daughter.

A 87-year-old monk in the Jogye Order, the Venerable Seoljo, began a fast outside the Jogye Temple on June 20 demanding Seoljeong’s resignation. He was hospitalized on Monday on the 41st day of his fast.

The allegations, which were widely known among monks even before Seoljeong’s election but received little attention from the lay audience, gained more publicity in May after MBC aired a segment on its investigative journalism program “PD Notebook” that dug into Seoljeong’s past.

The program uncovered evidence that the monk may have embezzled the order’s funds while he was spiritual director of Sudeok Temple in Yesan, South Chungcheong, to pay off a woman claiming to be his daughter over the course of a decade.

Seoljeong admitted to forging his academic record last year but has continued to deny that the woman is his daughter. The sect prohibits clergy members from engaging in sexual relations or having children.

Faced with mounting pressure, Seoljeong announced on July 21 that he would launch a reform committee to review his status, but dissidents in the order continued to demand his resignation, leading to Wednesday’s announcement.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]
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