Buddhist sect embroiled in sexual misconduct allegation

Son of Jingak Order leader accused of sexual harassment

The Korean Times/January 23, 2019

By Kang Aa-young

Buddhist sect Jingak Order has become embroiled in a sexual misconduct allegation, amid the #MeToo campaign, which swept the nation around this time last year, showing signs of rekindling after some athletes broke their silence. 

According to a local media report, two women who have been working with a social welfare foundation run by the Buddhist sect claimed they had been sexually harassed by the eldest son of the Jingak Order leader Chong-in.

They filed a complaint against the man known only by his surname Kim, 40, in December, according to Hankyoreh daily newspaper. The investigation into the case is underway. 

Kim took the helm as marketing manager of Jingak Social Welfare Foundation in August 2013, which made him the second-highest position of the sect.

One of the victims claimed Kim groped her twice at a karaoke bar in fall in 2015 after the entire staff of Jingak Social Welfare Foundation had dinner. He touched and groped the woman and his first attempt to sexually harass her was brief as one of the coworkers intervened and stopped him. But Kim tried it again and touched her bum and thigh. According to the victim Kim was not drunk at that time. His sexual harassment recurred in 2017 again and this time it was more explicit. 

The other victim claimed Kim touched her cheek and hugged her against her will in winter in 2017. 

Kim denied the allegations. In an interview with Hankyoreh, Kim said he didn't know the victims and had never sexually harassed them. Due to his high-profile father who is the leader of the Buddhist sect, he said he had paid extra attention not to cause any trouble and always tried to keep a low profile.

Jingak Order is the nation's third largest Buddhist order, following Jogye and Chuntae Orders.

Unlike other Buddhist sects, monks of Jingak are allowed to marry and have children. Monks are also allowed to grow their hair. The sect has an estimated 700,000 believers nationwide. 

Inside the Buddhist sect, Kim had been called "Jingak Prince" for his family bond. He is known to have exerted a great deal of influence inside the order. The sexual harassment allegations had not affected his position inside the sect. According to the victims, no internal investigation had been made despite the allegations.

The Buddhist sect has been mired in a sexual harassment case about a year after the #MeToo movement spread to religious groups around this time last year. 

A Catholic priest, who then belonged to Catholic Diocese of Suwon, faced allegations that he had attempted sexual assaults in 2010 when he was serving in South Sudan. 

The Suwon Diocese made public apology after the case was made public. A former pastor was sentenced to a six-year jail term for sexually assaulting children. A Buddhist monk was also accused of having sexually assaulting women at a temple in South Gyeongsang Province.

According to a media report, some 680 religious leaders were involved in sexual misconduct for the past six years. Those who are familiar with the survey said the actual figure could be much higher than that. 

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