Venerable Seoljeong, the presiding executive of the Jogye Order of South Korea, the country’s largest Buddhist order, announced yesterday that he plans to resign from the organization’s leadership just days after issuing a public apology for a series of scandals that has enveloped the order and his office.*
The announcement was made following a meeting between Ven. Seoljeong and another high-ranking monk at the Jogye Order headquarters in Seoul. Ven. Sungwoo, head of the chief monks of 25 Jogye Order head temples, told a media briefing that Ven. Seoljeong planned to step down before 16 August, when the order’s central council is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting.
The reputation of the Jogye Order has been shaken by a barrage of allegations of impropriety against 76-year-old Ven. Seoljeong since his election in October last year, including lying about his academic background, misusing and embezzling the order’s funds, and secretly fathering a daughter out of wedlock.
The Jogye Order is a school of Seon (Zen) Buddhism that traces its roots back 1,200 years to the Unified Silla (also known as the Later Silla) kingdom (668–935). The Jogye school as a distinct entity emerged in the late 11th century when the monk Bojo Jinul, credited as the school’s founder, sought to combine Seon practices with the theological underpinnings of sutra-based Buddhist schools, including Korean Pure Land Buddhism. The order now represents the largest segment of South Korea’s Buddhist population, administering about 1,900 active temples and more than 13,000 monastics nationwide.
The supreme patriarch of the Jogye Order is 82-year-old Ven. Jinje, although the organization’s power is concentrated in its administrative division, which controls all financial and administrative decisions.
According to data from the 2015 national census, the majority of South Korea’s population—56.1 per cent—holds no religious affiliation. Christians make up the largest religious segment of the population at 27.6 per cent, while Buddhists account for 15.5 per cent.
* The Head of Korea’s Largest Buddhist Order Apologizes for Corruption Furor (Buddhistdoor Global)
Buddhist leader to resign over alleged ethical violations (Korea JoongAng Daily)
Executive chief of largest Buddhist sect to resign over corruption allegations (Yonhap News Agency)
Jogye Order leader to step down soon (The Korea Times)