South Korean DJ, Who Dresses Like a Monk, Can Only Perform If It Doesn’t Involve Any Religious Elements


South Korean entertainer DJ NewJeansNim has been permitted by the Singapore police to perform on our island as long as he does not involve any religious elements into his set.

And no, before you ask, he has nothing to do with NewJeans.

The DJ first gained notoriety for dressing up as a Buddhist monk – bald head, robe and all – and incorporating the religion’s mantras (and admittedly pretty clever Korean puns) into his performances.

DJ NewJeansNim, known by his real name Yoon Seong-ho, has seen his popularity surge in South Korea recently, with videos of him performing his hit song, “Buddha Handsome”, in various events across the country going massively viral on social media.

The crowds at these events typically consist of both young and, at times, bewildered older audiences, all thoroughly enjoying his music.

According to The Korea Herald, the country’s leading English-language newspaper, The Jogye Order, South Korea’s largest Buddhist sect, has enlisted NewJeansNim for its outreach initiatives.

During a meeting with NewJeansNim, the president of The Jogye Order, Venerable Jin-woo, expressed gratitude, saying, “I appreciate your efforts in bringing a younger perspective to Buddhism for the younger generation.”

At the same meeting, Venerable Jin-woo also gifted NewJeansNim with prayer beads and a headset.

As of November 2023, approximately 17% of South Korea’s population adheres to the Buddhist faith.

DJ NewJeansNim Slated to Perform in Singapore in June

DJ NewJeansNim is set to perform his first show in Singapore at Club Rich (located on Middle Road, Bugis) on 19 and 20 June 2024.

Singaporeans were in for quite a culture shock when promotional material from the club, uploaded onto the club’s Instagram account on 18 May, featured the DJ with a shaved head, dressed in a monk’s robe, and posing with his hands in a prayer position.

Image: Instagram (@clubrichsingapore)

It certainly did not help at all that the announcement took place just four days before Vesak Day, a festival held dear by Buddhists as it commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and passing of Gautama Buddha.

The announcement of his performance upset many Buddhists in Singapore, so much so that a Facebook post on Sunday (19 May) made by the Singapore Buddhist Federation stated: “NewJeansNim is not a monk and should not wear a monk’s robe to perform, which violates the Vinaya [the code of conduct for Buddhist monks].

“We hope the relevant authorities can deny permits for his performance to prevent embarrassment to Buddhists.”

Singapore Police Force Responds to Concerns, Club Rich Issues Statement

To address the worries of the public, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said in a statement on Tuesday night that it was aware of the planned performance and had engaged with the licensee and stakeholders of the club.

They advised the nightclub to adhere to the conditions of their public entertainment licence, which include ensuring that any public entertainment provided is not likely to offend any race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality, or potentially cause disharmony among different groups.


“The police are committed to ensuring strict adherence to licensing conditions, and any breaches will be dealt with firmly in accordance with the law. Operators found to be in breach of the licensing conditions may have their licences revoked,” said the police.

In response to media inquiries, Club Rich stated that while the show will still go on, they are committed to “respecting all religions” and will ensure that the performance “will turn out to be a non-religious related performance”.

This meant that the DJ would not be adorning his signature monk attire, or incorporating Buddhist hand gestures, mantras or other elements into his set. 

Singaporean Ministers Speak Up

Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K. Shanmugam, noted earlier on Wednesday that the performer had used religious verses in song lyrics and a Buddhist prayer item in previous shows.

“This would have been offensive to our Buddhist community. This is not acceptable,” he said in a Facebook post.


“This news has come out on Vesak Day, an unfortunate coincidence. But the Buddhist community, like other communities, knows that the government will take firm action in respect of such things.”

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and Second Minister for Law, Edwin Tong, said late on Tuesday that the government has “clear rules” about what can or cannot be staged at public entertainment performances.

“The rationale is very clear; we live in a multi-racial, multi-religious, and multi-cultural society, we respect each other, and we take steps to protect our social cohesion. We take a very serious view of acts which denigrate religion. This is an offence and cannot be tolerated.”

He added that the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth has worked with the police, which has “proactively engaged” the licence holder, and reminded them to adhere strictly to the licence conditions.

“The licence holder has assured the police that they will ensure that any performance staged will adhere to the licensing conditions, including ensuring that the performance will not involve any elements associated with religion.”

Venerable You Guang, secretary-general of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, on 22 May 22, expressed his appreciation for the “swift and firm” statements from Mr Shanmugam and Mr Tong.


He noted that the ministers’ statements demonstrated their respect for and protection of religious sanctity in Singapore.

He added, “We need deep respect and understanding for one another as we navigate this world of constant changes, challenges, and opportunities.”

DJ NewJeansNim Faced Backlash in Other Countries Prior

This is not the first time DJ NewJeansNim has encountered negative feedback outside of his home country, however.

The DJ had performed at a dance club on 3 May and was seen wearing a monk dressing gown and using Buddhist prayer items during his performance in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Malaysian lawmaker Wee Ka Siong said that DJ NewJeansNim angered the Buddhist community in Malaysia when he “disguised” himself as a Buddhist monk and performed at a club, creating a wrong perception of Buddhist values and teachings.


“His controversial acts have hurt the feelings of the Buddhist community, which will celebrate Vesak Day (the festival commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha) in two weeks’ time,” said Wee, the president of the Malaysian Chinese Association.

The DJ was expected to perform in Malaysia again on May 21, a day before Vesak Day, but following the backlash, his show was ultimately cancelled.