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Factional Feud Deepens in Buddhist Groups

By Kim Tae-jong, The Korea Times, Sept 3, 2007

Seoul, South Korea -- The diploma forgery scandal of a university professor has initiated a factional feud between Buddhist groups.

The strife came as some Buddhist groups argued over the controversial appointment of Shin Jeong-ah as a professor at Dongguk University, and has revealed deep-rooted areas of conflict that exist between the nation’s Buddhist sects.

Eight Buddhist groups Monday urged Buddhist leaders to take action to deal with the scandalous issue.

``We are in a total crisis,’’ a representative from the groups said Monday during a news conference at the Jogye Temple in Jongno, downtown Seoul. ``We now urge Buddhist leaders to take responsibility for the scandal and clarify all the allegations.’’

The move came after a series of scandals in Buddhist circles such as the appointment of Shin, dispute over the appointment of the head monk at Jeju Gwaneum Temple and embezzlement by the head monk of Baekdam Temple.

The eight Buddhist groups include Buddhist Solidarity for Reform, Korea Youth Buddhist Association and Buddhist Environmental Solidarity.

But the appointment has spawned speculation that high-profile Buddhist leaders were involved in the scandal as Shin was hired at the university, which has a Buddhist foundation. The matter is developing into factional feud between mainstream and non-mainstream Buddhist groups.

On Aug. 31, Muryanghoe, a monk’s group which belongs to the nation’s biggest Buddhist sect, the Jogye Order, called for the dismissal of all the board directors of Dongguk University Foundation for their responsibility over Shin’s scandal.

But the action is allegedly part of the Jogye Order’s attack on Borimhoe and Geumganghoe, two mainstream groups in the university’s foundation.

The allegation is raised that the Jogye Order had Ven. Jang Yoon serve as a board director of the university’s foundation to have an influence on the university; but when the attempt to exercise influence failed, he disclosed the scandal over Shin’s appointment.

Ven. Jang Yoon, who first raised the suspicion about Shin's educational background, belongs to the group and also serves as a board director of the university’s foundation.

The group also plans to raise the issue at the Buddhist assembly, which is to be held from today till Sept. 8.

The involvement of Buddhist sects in the bogus diploma scandal will be clarified after the interrogation of Hong Ki-sam, the former president of the university.

The prosecution will summon him for interrogation over questions about how Shin was appointed despite opposition based on the authenticity of her diplomas.

Meanwhile, Han Kap-soo, the former chief of Gwangju Biennale Foundation, said at a press conference Monday that there was no outside influence in hiring Shin as the co-director of 2008 Gwangju Biennale.

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