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Korea: Buddhist Monks May Be Banned From Holding Private Wealth

By Kim Rahn, The Korea Times, May 18, 2009

Seoul, South Korea -- Buddhist monks could be banned from holding private wealth and be obliged to hand over property to their order after their death.

<< Korean monks (Filepic)

The Jogye Order, the largest Buddhist sect in Korea, said Monday that it was considering the establishment of an internal regulation governing the right of monks to hold private property.

``There are cases where priests have private fortunes and hand them over to other monks who succeed them. So we aim to prohibit it strictly and have the property belong to the order,'' a Jogye official said.

After a period of canvassing opinion, the Buddhist sect will announce its final decision next month.

At present, Buddhist monks make a pledge of non-possession when becoming a novice.

"We have such a customary regulation in principle, but it has been closer to a custom rather than a rule with binding force. By setting up a written regulation, we will embody it,'' the official said.

The proposed rule would mean monks have to draw up a written promise that they will donate private wealth to the order when they enter it; when they report a change in their status every 10 years; when they are appointed as the head monk of a temple; and when they take exams to become higher-ranking monks. Two other people must witness the written promise.

If a monk returns to secular life, is expelled from the priesthood, or dies, his or her personal property would belong to the order, which would use it for the welfare of elderly monks.

``In the past, the personal property issue was automatically solved when a person left home to become a monk. But in modern society, it is not because of laws on private property ownership,'' the official said.

``Some monks personally use property that they have kept since their secular days or they have made while performing their duty.

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