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South Korea Buddhist leaders resign over gambling scandal

Agence France-Presse, May 10, 2012

Seoul, South Korea -- The leadership of the South Korea's largest Buddhist order resigned en masse after video footage of junior monks playing poker with thousands of dollars at stake emerged.

Prosecutors launched a probe after the footage came to light this week of eight monks from the Jogye Order gambling at a hotel room in southern Jangseong County.

Gambling is illegal in South Korea, except for in special areas such as casinos for foreign tourists, and is also a breach of the Buddhist order's code of discipline.

The gambling, which took place last month, was filmed by another monk and the video footage was given as evidence to the police. The eight monks were also allegedly drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes in breach of Buddhist rules.

"All the six members of the executive committee of the Jogye Order have tendered their resignations, holding themselves responsible for the incident," a Jogye Order spokesman told Agence France Presse (AFP).

Jaseung, head of the order, said that the monks would face tough punishment and would be required to make an apology to the nation as early as on Friday, Yonhap news agency said.

The gambling controversy is the latest incident in a long-running feud between supporters of the Jogye Order's current administration and its opponents, as the footage was secretly recorded by an opponent and then made public.

One of the opponents, known by his Buddhist name Seongho, sued his eight fellow monks for gambling and betting "hundreds of millions of won."

The Jogye Order, which claims 10 million followers among South Korea's 50 million population, has been plagued by factional feuds. Dozens of monks were injured when rival factions clashed in 1999.

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