Buddhist Monks Caught Gambling, Smoking and Boozing

Buddhist Monks Caught Gambling and Boozing

Buddhist monks, captured in the below two YouTube videos, have been caught drinking, smoking and gambling in their hotel suite via a hidden camera that secretly recorded a near-13 hour cross-legged marathon. Gambling, which is illegal in South Korea, is a bit of a social taboo. Especially when Buddhist monks do it.

Buddha’s Birthday is just round the corner meaning the news was received particularly badly by the Buddhist community. But even if their boozy hotel picnic was indeed in honour of Buddha’s Birthday, its too late to spin the story otherwise. Six of the Jogye Order heads have offered to step down following the discovery of the footage which was quickly relayed by the South Korean media and even made it into the international news arena.

From YouTube (in Korean):

From YouTube (uncensored):

From Nate:

Eight monks of virtue from the Jogye sect caught gambling overnight with hundreds of millions of Won in a hotel – on the day before the 49-day ceremony

Monks of the Jogye sect [the largest and most well-known Buddhist sect in Korea] were reported to have smoked, drunken alcohol and gambled away hundreds of millions of Won.

On the 4th of May, the Bulgyo.com reported that eight monks spent the night gambling at cards, betting with 10,000 and 50,000 Won notes while smoking cigarettes and having alcohol and food brought as room service. This happened during their stay in a hotel suite room in Yaksu-ri Buka-myeon Jangseong District, South Jeolla Province, nearby Baegyang Temple on the 23rd of April.

The monks continued gambling until well after eight in the morning the next day. Among the monks who were gambling then were some high-profile figures, equivalent to the members of National Assembly of the Buddhist circles. They included a member of the Jogye committee, a former member of the memorial service committee and a chief monk of a temple branch.

Seoul District Public Prosecutors’ Office announced on the 9th that they received an indictment about 8 Jogye Order monks who gambled. It was a monk called Seong-ho who accused them of the charge; he used to work for the Jogye general affairs committee.

He wrote that 8 monks played poker from 8pm on 23rd of April till 9am the next day, in a suite room of a tourist hotel in Jangseong DistrictSouth Jeolla Province. Their bets amounted to hundreds of millions and they also consumed alcohol and tobacco. ‘They have violated good customs and social order, and I therefore request them to be punished severely,’ he added.

He allegedly submitted a video of the gambling scene taken with a hidden camera to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, along with the bill of indictment. This video came from a USB stick placed in front of a Buddhist temple, but it is unknown who left it there.

Monk Jin-je, the highest monk of the Jogye Order, said on the 9th that ‘any monk who gambles does not deserve to eat the offering meal or wear Indian ink clothes [the grey clothes that Korean Buddhist monks wear]. Someone who has left home and joined the Buddhist priesthood should not commit an unscrupulous act.’

The day that the monks gambled was the day before the 49th-day ceremony [last day of the Buddhist funeral ceremony held for 49 days following a person’s death] of the deceased former chief priest of the Baegyang Temple.

Comments from Nate:


Both gae-bul and gae-dok are problematic.


An acquaintance of my father saw a massive sack filled with cash at a temple, when he was fixing the temple building.


The monks have risen, thinking they could do better than the priest.


My dad drives a deluxe taxi, and his most frequent passenger is a drunken monk, ke. On a good day he’s also smoking!


What a shame. There are so many monks who are taking their lumps in abstinence and purification, but these monks are staining every monk’s name.


Do you read minds when you play poker? [The idea that monks read minds is referring to a popular drama series, which featured a dictator with a Buddhist background who claimed that he could ‘read minds’ and see who is against him.]


I’m doing alba in a convenience shop in Jong-no, in front of the Jogye Order headquarters. The monks frequently buy alcohol and tobacco. I was surprised to see that when I first came to work. But now I have memorised who smokes which brand of cigarettes, so can give the correct brand the moment I see their face before they tell me what they want. ke ke


At most of the churches, the priest gets a formal wage, there are elders, deaconesses and missionaries who watch [the budget for priest] and a lot of money is spent on missionary and charity work. To be honest, isn’t it more obscure where the money goes when it is given to Buddhist monks? There aren’t even as many events at temples as there are in churches. Buddhist temples would easily have compiled loads of money.


Do not trust priests and monks… but deal directly with God and Buddha… There’s no lack of accidents caused by priests and monks…


Drinking, smoking and playing poker aren’t something you can learn and start on the same day, I suppose? Does that mean it’s been quite a while since they’ve started them? hahaha


A while ago at the meat buffet in my neighbourhood, I saw a bald-headed person clearly in monks’ robe, diligently scooping up [the meat] and carrying it [to his table].


Even if Christians do something really good there are people who make fun of the root of Christianity, talking nonsense like ‘some random god from the desert’, along with all kinds of false stories and crazy babbles… How come they keep quiet about these things… Lol


It’s the fake monks who were so unscrupulous and gambled, but why do you always make a sweeping denunciation of Christianity and the church. I’m not religious but it doesn’t seem right. And let’s not lose the focus here and start a comment battle on religion, not again.


If it was Christianity people would say it is typical of gae-dok behaviour and would criticise the priests a lot, but I don’t see why they are so tolerant of Buddhism. What the hell is the comment that says ‘don’t say monks, call them fake monks,’ if they are monks they are all monks.


‘Come empty, leave empty’ is the basic ideology of the monks, so where did the money come from? Korea should also reveal the private properties of the religious people and make them pay taxes accordingly.


There are many quack priests but also lots of fake monks whose past backgrounds are dubious.


The Jogye Order has long been corrupt, since the end of the Goryeo dynasty. Old habits die hard, don’t they?


Trash monks


If Buddhist temples were to report their finances and donations, the amount would be massive, like churches… At least churches had to reveal their finances and would accordingly get beaten hard, so we know of their money business…. [Buddhist temples] would be even more corrupt than churches…


In the program ‘PD’s notepad’ [a famous TV program that investigated and reported serious social and political issues] there once was this episode… A chief priest of a popular temple got married but was quarrelling over money… And his wife was also a chief priest at another popular temple, haha, these were certainly fake monks… More surprisingly, their property was worth billions of Won ㅡㅡ;

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