‘Monk’ DJ NewJeansNim will ditch robe to avoid Singapore ban

This picture taken on May 12, 2024, shows South Korean comedian Youn Sung-ho, known as NewJeansNim, wearing monk’s robes leaving the stage after an electronic dance music party (EDM) event for the annual lotus lantern festival to celebrate the upcoming Buddha’s birthday in Seoul. The controversial DJ “monk” will avoid a ban in Singapore by performing in the city-state without his robe or any religious references, a nightclub hosting him said Thursday, May 23, 2024. JUNG YEON-JE / AFP

SINGAPORE — A controversial South Korean DJ “monk” will avoid a ban in Singapore by performing in the city-state without his robe or any religious references, a nightclub hosting him said Thursday, May 23.

Youn Sung-ho, who goes by the moniker NewJeansNim, is a comedian-turned-musician credited with reviving Buddhism’s popularity among young South Koreans—even as his performances have ruffled feathers regionally.

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With a shaved head, he wears a monk’s robe and dispenses Buddhist wisdom and Gen-Z life advice over thumping electronic dance music beats.

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He is scheduled to perform next month at a nightclub in Singapore, an ethnically diverse city-state where laws restrict speech or actions viewed as harmful to religious harmony.

But the country’s interior minister on Wednesday issued a strong warning to the owners of Club Rich Singapore that police would take action if the performance proceeded based on what the DJ had done elsewhere—dressing in a monk’s robe and using Buddhist verses and religious paraphernalia.

“This would have been offensive to our Buddhist community. This is not acceptable,” Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam wrote on Facebook.

On Thursday, the nightclub said that the show would be held as scheduled on June 19 and 20 but without any references to religion.

“There will be no religious performance during the event but we will ensure that you will still have a fun-filled night at Club Rich Singapore,” the nightclub said on Facebook.

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The Singapore Police Force said in a statement to AFP on Thursday that they had engaged the nightclub’s operators and been assured the performance would “not involve any elements associated with religion, be it in the attire, hand gestures, artefacts, songs and lyrics.”

The police warned that “any breaches will be dealt with firmly in accordance with the law.”

The DJ performed earlier in May in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which has a significant Buddhist minority.

But a second gig planned for later this month was canceled after his performance saw offended local Buddhists file police complaints.

In South Korea, he has the support of fans and the president of the country’s largest Buddhist sect, the Jogye Order, who has urged him to continue, seeing the DJ as a means of attracting new, younger followers.


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