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Monk Indicted for Document Forgery

By Kim Tae-jong, The Korea Times, Feb 26, 2008

Seoul, South Korea -- The prosecution Tuesday indicted without physical detention the head of a Buddhist sect for forging documents to get billions of won in government subsidies.

Ven. Woonsan, head of the Taego Order of Korean Buddhism, received 6 billion won from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism as a subsidy for the construction of a new temple in 2005.

Prosecutors found he manipulated the sect’s bank balance to apply for the subsidy, a prosecutor said.

According to the related law, the government can provide a religious leader with half of the construction costs a new building to be used for religious purposes as a subsidy.

One of the requirements for this, however, is that the religious group should be able to afford half of the construction cost with their own funds. Ven. Woonsan allegedly increased his balance to 60 billion by temporarily putting money from members of the sect into the account.

He admitted putting money from sect members into the account to be eligible for the program and withdrawing it after receiving the subsidy.

"It was just to meet our share in the construction cost,’’ an official from the sect said. ``But it was just a temporary move and right after we received the subsidy, we managed to save the half of it by ourselves and put it into the account. There was no embezzlement or anything."

The Buddhist monk is also suspected of manipulating the construction budget.

Prosecutors said that the total cost was estimated at around 10.2 billion won but the Buddhist sect claimed 12.3 billion won to get extra money.

The official from the Buddhist sect denounced the suspicion, citing that the extra money was calculated for the construction of the interior of the new temple and other small projects.

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