SEOUL, March 12 (Korea Bizwire) — The #MeToo movement calling out sexual harassment is spreading like wildfire through the religious world in South Korea, prompting leaders to take countermeasures.
According to reputable sources on Sunday, the scandal surrounding several attempted rapes by a Catholic priest who was only identified as Han has inspired followers of other religions to come forward with experiences of sexual harassment.
Several allegations have been raised against pastors from Protestant churches, with one female churchgoer claiming she was sexually harassed 10 years ago. Another woman claims she suffered sexual assault, and had an abortion as a result.
The Buddhist world is no exception, as a female Buddhist has alleged a monk at a high-profile temple for the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism sexually assaulted her years ago, while another woman took to social media to share her unpleasant experience working at a temple as a religious affairs officer.
In the wake of the series of sexual harassment allegations, religious leaders have expressed regret and rushed to introduce countermeasures.
Last month, Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, who heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, held a conference in Seoul to issue an apology to the victims, their families and those “who have been let down and enraged by the priesthood.”
“This sex scandal in the priesthood, which should uphold the noble value of celibacy and serve as a moral and religious compass, is disappointing and embarrassing,” he said.
During the five-day spring general meeting last week, plans were also announced to form a special committee dedicated to fighting sexual assault within the church.
The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism has also issued stricter guidelines on sexual harassment prevention education.
The guidebooks distributed last week recommend holding education programs with experts, and suggest temples need to prioritize the protection of victims first. In the meantime, growing calls have been reported to also set up a sexual harassment report and counseling center.
Addressing sexual crimes in the religious world has been a long time coming, as data from the Korean National Police Agency shows over 1 in 10 sexual criminals with a specialized job were employed in religious organizations.