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Jogye Order has new leader amid rift

By Kang Hyun-kyung

Ven. Wonhaeng was elected as new leader of the nation's largest Buddhist sect Jogye Order, Friday, to fill the leadership void following Seoljeong's resignation.

Wonhaeng won 235 out of 315 votes cast by Buddhist delegations, becoming its 36th president.

In a speech released after the election, he promised to work hard to improve welfare for Buddhist monks, reconcile divided Buddhists and fulfill social responsibilities.

"I feel a grave responsibility rather than the joy of being elected," he said.

Jogye Order's new president Ven. Wonhaeng / Yonhap
Jogye Order's new president Ven. Wonhaeng / Yonhap
He said the Jogye Order failed to cope with the ever-changing environment and Buddhist leaders turned a deaf ear to the mounting calls from the public to reform the order.

As a result, he said, the Buddhist sect is paying the price.

"The number of people who identify themselves as Buddhists is decreasing, and we are facing a crisis both within and outside the Jogye Order."

His tenure was effective immediately after the election results were revealed.

The election was held to fill a leadership void that had continued for weeks since August.

Ven. Seoljeong's four-year tenure was cut short after questions were raised about his wealth and alleged wife and an adult daughter.

He left the leadership post less than a year after he assumed it last November.

Seoljeong's departure has put Jogye Order in turmoil, with two factions clashing over election rules. Those who support the current indirect selection of its leader insisted the election take place as soon as possible to end the void.

But those who were unhappy with this method of electing the leader called for restructuring.

Under the current rule, about 320 Buddhist leaders cast their votes to elect the Jogye Order president on behalf of about 10,000 rank-and-file Buddhist monks.

A dissenting faction claimed the indirect election was a conduit for corruption because those who run for election can easily buy votes. But their voices went unheard.

Initially, four candidates said they would to run in the election: Ven. Hyechong, Jungwoo, Ilmyeon and Wonhaeng.

But all except Won-haeng suddenly dropped out of the race simultaneously, claiming election fraud.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, the three candidates claimed they witnessed illicit activities during the campaign and this frustrated them.

"We realized our wish and endeavor to overhaul the Jogye Order would turn out to be in vain even if one of us is to be elected," they said in the statement. "We agreed to drop out of the campaign en masse to raise the flawed election issue."
But they did not give details about what kind of illicit activities they saw.

Meanwhile, their collective action dealt a blow to the Jogye Order because they challenged the fairness and transparency of the election.


By Kang Hyun-kyung

Ven. Wonhaeng was elected as new leader of the nation's largest Buddhist sect Jogye Order, Friday, to fill the leadership void following Seoljeong's resignation.

Wonhaeng won 235 out of 315 votes cast by Buddhist delegations, becoming its 36th president.

In a speech released after the election, he promised to work hard to improve welfare for Buddhist monks, reconcile divided Buddhists and fulfill social responsibilities.

"I feel a grave responsibility rather than the joy of being elected," he said.

Jogye Order's new president Ven. Wonhaeng / Yonhap
Jogye Order's new president Ven. Wonhaeng / Yonhap
He said the Jogye Order failed to cope with the ever-changing environment and Buddhist leaders turned a deaf ear to the mounting calls from the public to reform the order.

As a result, he said, the Buddhist sect is paying the price.

"The number of people who identify themselves as Buddhists is decreasing, and we are facing a crisis both within and outside the Jogye Order."

His tenure was effective immediately after the election results were revealed.

The election was held to fill a leadership void that had continued for weeks since August.

Ven. Seoljeong's four-year tenure was cut short after questions were raised about his wealth and alleged wife and an adult daughter.

He left the leadership post less than a year after he assumed it last November.

Seoljeong's departure has put Jogye Order in turmoil, with two factions clashing over election rules. Those who support the current indirect selection of its leader insisted the election take place as soon as possible to end the void.

But those who were unhappy with this method of electing the leader called for restructuring.

Under the current rule, about 320 Buddhist leaders cast their votes to elect the Jogye Order president on behalf of about 10,000 rank-and-file Buddhist monks.

A dissenting faction claimed the indirect election was a conduit for corruption because those who run for election can easily buy votes. But their voices went unheard.

Initially, four candidates said they would to run in the election: Ven. Hyechong, Jungwoo, Ilmyeon and Wonhaeng.

But all except Won-haeng suddenly dropped out of the race simultaneously, claiming election fraud.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, the three candidates claimed they witnessed illicit activities during the campaign and this frustrated them.

"We realized our wish and endeavor to overhaul the Jogye Order would turn out to be in vain even if one of us is to be elected," they said in the statement. "We agreed to drop out of the campaign en masse to raise the flawed election issue."
But they did not give details about what kind of illicit activities they saw.

Meanwhile, their collective action dealt a blow to the Jogye Order because they challenged the fairness and transparency of the election.


Kang Hyun-kyung hkang@koreatimes.co.kr

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