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New Buddhist leader hints at reforms
By Baik Sung-ho, JoongAng Daily, October 31, 2009
Seoul, South Korea -- The Jogye Order, Korea’s largest Buddhist sect, elected the Venerable Jaseung as its new administrative leader on Oct. 22. The newly elected leader is 55 years old, 18 years younger than outgoing leader Venerable Jigwan.
<< Venerable Jaseung: To initiate long overdue reforms for Korean Buddhism?
According to the order’s charter, only males 50 years or older who have served as monks for more than 30 years are eligible for the post.
After the election, many within the order expressed hope that the appointment of Ven. Jaseung, who is younger than his predecessors, would finally bring changes within the order, including one Jogye official who said that it will be the younger generation that elicits change.
The new leader echoed this after his election, saying he understood that his supporters hope to see him initiate long-overdue reforms.
“I guess this means Jogye is shifting its focus from internal matters within the order to its responsibilities in the social sector,” said a Jogye official who asked not to be named.
In previous elections, votes for the leader have often been split, with each of Jogye’s four major sub-groups supporting different candidates. But Jogye insiders said this election was significant because all four groups had voted to support the Venerable Jaseung.
Still others expressed the concern that the overwhelming show of support for the new leader could become a burden as he tries to navigate the desires of the four groups.
“My first priority is the advancement of the order,” Jaseung said in his acceptance speech.
When asked about the order’s rocky relationship with the Lee Myung-bak administration, the Venerable Jaseung noted the lack of communication between the government and the Jogye Order, but said he hoped things would improve.
Relations between the two became strained last year after the Lee administration appointed Christians to top government posts but left Buddhists largely excluded, and again after Buddhist temples were omitted from a map at a government Web site.
“I’m hoping that we can work together through dialogue and communication,” Jaseung said.