Religious implications in Korea over KU degree controversy

The national outrage in South Korea over an art curator who allegedly faked degrees from Kansas University and Yale now apparently has religious implications.Shin Jeong-ah has been accused of faking degrees to get her jobs as art professor at Dongguk University and curator for the Sunggok Museum in Seoul.Now, according to a story by the Korean Yonhap News Agency, the scandal is creating strife in the Buddhist community in the country.A monk named Youngbae, who is in charge of a temple in Ulsan and chairman of the board of directors of the Buddhist-affiliated Dongguk University, is “suspected of having played a major role in hiring the disgraced Shin.”Byeon Yang-kyoon, a former top presidential aide in Korea, also is suspected of offering financial support to Youngbae’s temple in exchange for her employment. And another monk named Janguyn has claimed he was fired from his position on the board of directors because he opposed Shin’s appointment.The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the largest Buddhist group in South Korea that represents about 2,300 temples and 13,000 monks, says the media is undermining the community by reporting on the alleged financial arrangement.”We urge the media to stop slandering the Buddhist community, misleading people as if the legally funded temples were illegally supported by the government,” the group said in a statement.”We regret that people perceive the Buddhist community as the mastermind behind the scandal involving Shin Jeong-ah. We call on the prosecutors to investigate the incident fairly and quickly to reveal what is truly going on.”Meanwhile, another Buddhist group, Buddhist Solidarity for Reform, “also calls within the Buddhist community that the Buddhists need to reflect on themselves and change,” according to the Yonhap News Agency report.”This turmoil was created in the first place by the worldly conflicts and unrighteousness within the South Korean Buddhist community,” the group said in a statement. “All the members of the board of directors of Dongguk University should make public repentance and resign. … We propose the Buddhist leaders to form an independent, anti-corruption panel to maintain the unity and cleanliness of our community.”Shin is accused of forging bachelor’s and master’s degrees from KU, and a doctorate from Yale. A KU spokesman has said Shin did attend KU but did not graduate. To read the full story on the religious implications involving the Shin controversy, visit the Yonhap News Agency Web site._ – Faith Files, which examines issues of faith, spirituality, morals and ethics, is updated by features/faith reporter Terry Rombeck. Have an idea for the blog? Contact Terry at, or 832-7145._