South Korea monks launch reforms following gambling scandal


Buddhist monks mourn at the memorial altar for former South Korean president Roh Moo-Hyun in his hometown of Bongha village in Gimhae about 450 km southeast of Seoul on May 27, 2009.



The leaders of South Korea’s biggest Buddhist order have announced a series of radical reforms under which finance professionals will manage the order’s accounts and lay people will run its temples, a month after secret video footage showing monks drinking, smoking and playing poker at a luxury lakeside hotel was aired on national TV.

Under the reforms, the monks of the Jogye Order – which has been plagued by internal fighting and outside attacks since the scandal broke – will focus on “missionary work” and “self-discipline” rather than having responsibility for temple affairs, the BBC reports.

According to Yonhap News Agency, temples will also be required to issue receipts for any revenues and accept credit card payments. In a bid to ensure financial transparency, the order will also implement new rules under which its financial records will be made available to the public, the Korea Herald reports.

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Six Jogye leaders quit over the scandal, which erupted in early May just days before Koreans observed a national holiday celebrating the birth of Buddha, the holiest day in the Buddhist calendar, according to Reuters.

A senior monk told the news agency last month that the drinking, smoking and gambling session – which was apparently filmed by a monk from the same order in late April and passed on to the media – had lasted for 13 hours, with the stakes reaching more than 1 billion won ($875,300).

Gambling is illegal in South Korea except at a single casino in the northeast and is also violation of the code of conduct for Jogye monks, the Associated Press reports.