DJ Monk Brings K-Pop Energy to Buddhist Festival in Seoul | Be Korea-savvy

DJ Monk Brings K-Pop Energy to Buddhist Festival in Seoul

Comedian Yoon Sung-ho, known as "the NewJeansNim", performs as a deejay at an "EDM (electronic dance music) festival" on a stage set up at an intersection in front of Jogyesa Temple in Seoul on May 12. (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

Comedian Yoon Sung-ho, known as “the NewJeansNim”, performs as a deejay at an “EDM (electronic dance music) festival” on a stage set up at an intersection in front of Jogyesa Temple in Seoul on May 12. (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

SEOUL, May 15 (Korea Bizwire) – At this year’s Lotus Lantern festival in Seoul, one of South Korea’s most celebrated cultural events and a UNESCO intangible heritage, the highlight came from an unlikely figure: a dancing Buddhist monk moving to thumping electronic dance music beats.

Donning colorful robes and a headset gifted by the leader of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the performer known as the NewJeansNim delivered a high-energy set that had the massive crowd swaying, cheering and singing along.

It was one of the largest turnouts in the festival’s history, transforming the intersection in front of the Jogyesa Temple into an open-air nightclub.

NewJeansNim, whose real name is Yoon Sung-ho, is a comedian who has emerged as an improbable icon of the young Buddhist movement championed by the Jogye Order.

He blends elements of club culture, from pumping dance beats to dazzling light shows, with Buddhist scripture and teachings meant to appeal to young South Koreans.

His hit single “Extreme Rebirth” includes lyrics like “This too shall pass,” “Overcome suffering to be reborn in paradise,” and “Stop your delusions.” During performances, he jumps up and down with his hands in a prayer position, chanting “Gwan-se-eum-bo-sal,” invoking the Buddhist deity of compassion.

“He brings joy while calming the minds of the younger generation,” said Ven. Jinwoo, the head of the Jogye Order’s administrative body, who gave Yoon the headset last month. “His acts align with Buddhist teachings of mutual benefit, happiness and peace.”

While the NewJeansNim’s act has proved a sensation in South Korea and parts of Asia like Taiwan, it drew criticism during a recent appearance in Muslim-majority Malaysia, leading to canceled shows. But leaders of the Jogye Order have embraced him for his authenticity and appeal to young audiences.

Yoon, a longtime Buddhist himself, says he is doing more than comedic shtick. He received the name NewJeans (a play on words meaning “to progress” in Korean with a nod to the K-pop group NewJeans) last year from another monk who had seen his D.J. set at the 2022 Lantern festival and believed he could help rebrand Buddhism as more vibrant and youthful.

The Jogye Order’s emphasis on a “young Buddhist” renaissance seems to be resonating. When it recently launched a templestay program called “I’m Going to the Temple,” modeled after a popular reality TV show, more than 300 people applied for just 20 spots.

On May 11, Yoon began a regimen of making 108 bows each day at Seokguram Grotto on Obongsan in Yangju, demonstrating his own spiritual devotion beyond the entertainment factor.

“Buddhism has long been seen as an old, gloomy religion,” said the monk who rechristened Yoon. “But by dancing joyfully while teaching the core tenets, he gives it new meaning.”

M. H. Lee (

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