|Seen is a photo showing a group of monks having a drinking party in an accommodation facility owned by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the largest Buddhist sect, on July 19. Yonhap|
By Park Ji-won
The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the largest Buddhist sect here, has apologized for its monks violating social distancing rules by holding a "drinking party," pledging to take action in response to the misdeed.
"We apologize to the people and the members of our sect for the inappropriate incident while COVID-19 is spreading throughout the nation and threatening people's lives," the sect said in a press release Wednesday. "The Jogye Order has been following the authorities' guidelines faithfully since the outbreak of the coronavirus, and has made great efforts to protect the lives and safety of the people. However, some monks' misdeeds greatly damaged the dedication and efforts of most temples and monks."
The sect added it will take steps based on its internal rules and order the temples to take pre-emptive measures to prevent similar incidents from happening.
The apology came after a group of monks made headlines by gathering in an accommodation facility owned by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in Haenam County, South Jeolla Province, on July 19, the first day of the new social distancing rules banning private gatherings of five or more people nationwide.
"The owner of the facility asked the monks to hold a ceremonial ritual praying for the safety of the accommodation before its opening," an official of the order said. "The gathering was organized to express gratitude for the ritual."
The county government said Thursday it plans to take punitive measures against the owner of the facility and seven monks. The monks are expected to be fined 100,000 won each, while the owner of the facility is expected to be fined 1.5 million won ($1,300) and ordered to close the facility for 10 days.
In addition to the violation of the distancing rules, the monks' drinking itself is a violation of "Gyeyul" or Buddhist cannon and rules called the "Sila" and "Vinaya."
The order faced mounting criticism as some of its monks have continued to make headlines due to various crimes and misconduct in recent years.
Last month, prosecutors sought an eight-year prison sentence for a former monk of the Jogye Order, for operating four pornography websites and distributing about 8,000 obscene photos and videos from 2016 to March 2020, in connection with the infamous "Nth room" sex crime scandal.