Ven. Jinwoo, the new president of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, formally took office today, marking the official start of his four-year term.
Earlier today, the monk arrived at Jogyesa, a late 14th century temple in downtown Seoul that became the order’s main temple in 1936. There he offered tribute at a ceremony held in the temple’s main hall before taking office.
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, more than 13,000 monastics, and seven million lay followers nationwide.
The Jogye Order manages an extensive collection of historical Buddhist artifacts that represent almost 70 per cent of all Korean cultural assets. The order is also active in interfaith activities as a member of the Korean Council of Religious Leaders, along with representatives of Korea’s Christian, Confucian, and traditional religion communities.
The Supreme Patriarch (or jongjeong, 종정) of the Jogye Order, who began his five-year term in March this year, is 82-year-old Ven. Seongpa, although the organization’s power is concentrated in its administrative division, which controls all financial and administrative decisions.
Ven. Jinwoo was elected as the 37th president of the Jogye Order last month, replacing his predecessor Ven. Wonhaeng, in an unopposed vote. This marks the first time that the Jogye Order has elected its chief through a uncontested single-winner election since the order adopted the new system in 2019. Ven. Jinwoo’s appointment was finalized in a special screening session last month by the order’s Central Council of senior monks. In 2018, Ven. Wonhaeng was elected to a four-year term by a majority of 235 votes out of 315.*
Born in 1961, Ven. Jinwoo was ordained in 1978 and has held several senior roles within the Jogye Order.
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.
* Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism Elects New Head Monk (BDG)
Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism
Buddhist Jogye Order’s new executive chief takes office (The Korea Herald)
Buddhist order picks new chief in uncontested election (The Korea Times)
Buddhist Jogye Order’s new executive chief takes office (The Korea Times)
New leader of Korea’s largest Buddhist sect (Yonhap News Agency)
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