By Yun Suh-young
A monk is under fire for justifying the inappropriate behavior of eight monks caught on video gambling in a hotel room in South Jeolla Province.
The incident is likely to take a turn for the worse because some monks are threatening to disclose more cases of bad behavior and irregularities surrounding the nation’s largest Buddhist sect, the Jogye Order.
Venerable Jeongnyum, a member of the Jogye Order’s executive committee in charge of legal affairs, is being criticized for saying that gambling is just a part of an entertainment culture the monks often engage in.
“Hwatu is not gambling. There are various types of entertainment that monks enjoy and hwatu is one of them. It’s a good activity to prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” said Ven. Jeongnyum on a local radio program Wednesday.
Hwatu is a card game that originated from Japan and usually involves betting money.
Ven. Jeongnyum is being criticized by other Buddhists for making irresponsible comments immediately after the show was aired.
“I don’t think he realizes the seriousness of the issue. If he’s the person in charge of legal affairs, should he be saying this? Even if he wasn’t, it’s not appropriate for monks to gamble or to justify such acts. What the monks were seen doing on the video clip was more than just simple entertainment. It was serious gambling,” a netizen commented on Twitter.
Ven. Jeongnyum’s comments on the radio followed Ven. Seongho’s on the same radio program the previous day. On Tuesday, Ven. Seongho said on the show that Ven. Jaseung, the head of the Jogye Order, and Ven. Myungjin, chief monk of Beongeun Temple in the capital’s Gangnam district, engaged in sex at a hostess bar in southern Seoul.
According to Ven. Seongho, going to the bar itself meant they wanted to buy sex because the place is known to be one that offers prostitution sale.
Ven. Jeongnyum denied Ven. Seongho’s claims the following day on the same show saying that it was true the two monks went to the bar but that they did not engage in sex.
The war of disclosure between the monks began when Ven. Seongho submitted a video clip to the prosecution as evidence of monks gambling and requested an investigation into the case. The relationship between Ven. Seongho and Ven. Jaseung has long been strained since Ven. Seongho was expelled from the Jogye Order two years ago for “spreading false rumors” about Ven. Jaseung.
Meanwhile, as the scandal continues to grow, more monks were arrested Thursday for gambling.
The police arrested 36 inside a Buddhist shrine in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province. Among them was a 59-year-old female who was identified as the former head nun of a Buddhist temple.
최근 발각된 스님 도박 사건에 대한 정념스님의 발언이 논란을 일으키고 있다.
조계종 총무원의 호법부장인 정념스님은 16일 오전 손석희의 시선집중에 나와 “화투는 도박이 아니다. 놀이문화다”라고 발언해 스님 도박 사건의 논란을 가중시켰다. 그는 또 “화투는 치매 예방에 좋다”고 말해 스님과 불자들로부터 지탄을 받고 있다.
정념스님의 발언 후 한 네티즌은 “정념스님이 사태의 심각성을 파악하지 못한 것 같다”며 규율을 담당하는 스님이 이런 발언을 해도 되냐고 반문했다.
정념스님은 이날 라디오에서 전날 성호스님이 같은 프로그램에 나와 했던 발언에 대해 반박했다. 성호스님은 15일 라디오에 나와 조계종 총무원장 자승스님과 봉은사 지주인 명진 스님의 성매수 의혹에 대해 폭로한바 있다.
이에 대해 정념스님은 “두 분이 강남의 한 룸살롱에 간 적은 있으나 성매수는 하지 않았다”며 의혹을 부인했다.
한편, 스님들의 도박 실태는 앞으로도 계속 밝혀질 것으로 보인다.
17일에는 경기도 안양에서 한 사찰의 법당에서 36명이 도박을 하다가 경찰에 검거됐다. 이들 중 스님도 포함되어 있는 것으로 경찰은 추정하고 있다. 일행 중 한 여성은 과거 모 사찰의 주지였던것으로 확인됐으나 종단이 사라져 현재는 승적이 없는 것으로 나타났다.