Gambling, Smoking and Drinking Monks Scandalize South Korea

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Ever heard the phrase “drunk as a monk”? We thought not.

But perhaps we’ll hear it more in South Korea now, where video footage of eight monks drinking, smoking and playing high-stakes poker has caused a commotion and prompted offers of resignation by six senior monks from the nation’s largest Buddhist sect.

Gambling is illegal in South Korea unless it occurs in a casino, and these monks weren’t playing for prayer beads: there were reportedly $900,000 bet during their marathon 13-hour game.

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The monks are members of the Jogye Order, which has 10 million followers. With some particularly bad timing, the scandal broke just days before a national holiday to celebrate Buddha’s birth.

The gathering of jolly Jogye took place at a luxury lakeside hotel, where a group of religious leaders had congregated for a fellow monk’s memorial service.

The head monk of the order, Seongho, who uses only one name, apologized to the South Korean public in a statement reported in the Guardian:

“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.”

It is thought that a fellow monk present at the event secretly filmed it, but Seongho has refused to disclose who sent him the footage.

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