Back in May this year, a national scandal was reported by South Korean tabloids after eight Buddhist monks were secretly recorded drinking, smoking cigarettes and throwing around 1 billion won ($875,300) of cash while playing a 13 hour game of high-stakes poker.
Gambling is illegal for South Koreans outside of tourist casinos and adding to the public outcry was the fact that the incident took place around the holiest day of the religion’s calendar celebrating the birthday of Buddha, and suspicion the money actually came from public charitable donations to the temple.
At the time the scandal broke, head monk of the Jogye, South Korea’s largest Buddhist order representing around 20% of the country’s population, vowed to administer suitable punishment, with Ven. Jaseung stating:
“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.”
The Jogye Order has endured a power struggle lately after a former Jogye member senior monk Seong-ho urged the Ven. Jaseung to resign, questioning his ability to lead, whilst also accusing him of drinking alcohol and flirting with young hostesses. In fact, it was Seong-ho who brought the vidoeo showing the monks gambling to the attention of the courts after apparently being sent the footage anonymously.
A few months on, and now the case has been ruled upon with two of the monks receiving fines of two million won ($1,775) each. Ironically, the men who actually brought evidence of the incident to the attention of public officials by setting up the camera received suspended jail sentences for breaking into the hotel room and damaging property while installing the camera.
After the case was concluded a court spokeswoman commented: “The court only ordered fines because they showed remorse for what they had done.”