Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gambling, drinking monks raise hell (video) (May 11, 2012)

SEOUL - Six leaders from South Korea's biggest Buddhist order have quit after secret video footage showed some supposedly serene monks raising hell, playing high-stakes poker, drinking, and smoking.

The scandal erupted just days before Koreans observe a national holiday to celebrate the birth of the Buddha, the [most sacred] day of the religion's calendar [Vesak].

The head of the Jogye Order, which has some 10 million followers, or about a fifth of the population, made a public apology on Friday, vowing "self-repentance."

South Korean TV networks aired shots of monks playing poker, some smoking and drinking, after gathering at a luxury lakeside hotel in late April for a fellow monk's memorial service.

"The stakes for 13 hours of gambling were more than 1 billion won ($875,300)," Seongho, a senior monk who uses [only] one name, told Reuters on Friday. He said he had reported the incident to prosecutors.

Gambling outside of licensed casinos and horse racing tracks is illegal in South Korea and frowned upon by religious leaders.

"Basically, Buddhist [monastic or Vinaya] rules say don't steal. Look at what they did; they abused money from Buddhists for gambling," Seongho said.

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