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북녘 | [Reminiscences]Chapter 15 5. On Chondoism, a National Religion

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[Reminiscences]Chapter 15 5. On Chondoism, a National Religion

  

   


 

5. On Chondoism, a National Religion 

  

My view on Chondoism considerably helped me find a revolutionary companion in a renowned religionist like Pak In Jin. If I had not known what kind of religion the Chondoist faith was\or had a biased\and hostile view of the faith, I would not have tried to negotiate with Pak In Jin,\or boldly planned to rally millions of believers in Chondoism across the country under the banner of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland.

Here, in this section of my memoirs I shall dwell on my view of Chondoism. I have a great deal to say about the Tonghak doctrine\and its history.

I think that people come to understand “isms”\and doctrines through different channels\and methods.

My initiation to Marxism-Leninism came through books, while the church introduced me to Christianity. I mentioned earlier that I often went to church with my mother during my childhood. I first saw religious rites in the church\and heard the pastor’s sermon on the Christian doctrine. My father, who had been educated at Sungsil Middle School,\and my maternal grandfather, a teacher\and elder in Chilgol Church, knew much about Jesus Christ. When I attended Changdok School, there were many believers in Christianity in Chilgol. Mr. Kang Ryang Uk22 was also a Christian.


Many friends of my father’s, including Son Jong Do, O Tong Jin, Jang Chol Ho, Kim Sa Hon\and Kim Si U, were Christians. It could be said that I was surrounded by Christians during my childhood. Many of my classmates in primary school were also Christians. In those days many books were devoted to Christianity. This environment benefited my understanding of Christianity.

 

It was via a different channel that I learned about Islam. It was related to a funny story. I first learned about Islam rom Ma Jin-dou, my classmate in Jilin Yuwen Middle School. He was a believer in Islam. Having a good appetite, he used to go to a restaurant\and\order wine\and pork, disregarding the Moslem taboo. He always took a seat in an obscure corner\and ate, looking round uneasily, because if others had known that he took wine\and pork, he would have been discredited as a Moslem\and severely censured by his mullah.

While eating several times with Ma Jin-dou at a restaurant, I learned that wine drinking\and eating of pork were taboo among Moslems. My general knowledge about Islam in my middle school days came rom what I saw\and heard when I was on intimate terms with Ma Jin-dou.

I began to take an interest in Chondoism when I learned about Jon Pong Jun, General Green Bean of the Kabo Peasant War. When my father told me about our forerunners, his name was mentioned alongside the names of Hong Kyong Rae23, Ri Jun24, An Jung Gun25, Hong Pom Do\and others. But my knowledge of Jon Pong Jun in those days was\limited to the fact that he led the Kabo Peasant War\and was a peerlessly courageous, fine man, who remained faithful to his principles to the end of his life. My father did not tell me anything more, as I was still a child.


Mr. Kang Ryang Uk provided me with detailed information for the first time on the life of General Green Bean (Jon Pong Jun)\and the Kabo Peasant War. He was a devout Christian, but was versed in Chondoism as well. I came to consider the Kabo Peasant War\and Chondoist faith in relation to each other, after listening to his coherent lecture.

The disastrous failure of the rebellion of the Tonghak followers\and the tragic death of General Green Bean led me to resent flunkeyism\and the incompetence of the feudal court, which had reduced our country to misery,\and the evil designs\and interference of both Japan\and Qing in the affairs of Korea. I considered the rebellion of the Tonghak followers as a great event, which adorned the modern history of our people’s struggle against aggression and feudality,\and the heroes the war produced were eagles exerting a great influence upon the political\and mental life of the Korean nation in modern times. Jon Pong Jun, the lion of the Kabo Peasant War, has remained as a lasting, unquenchable spark in my memory.

My understanding of the Chondoist faith deepened during my Hwasong Uisuk School days. There were many Chondoists in the school. In his recollections of the past, Choe Tok Sin26, the son of Choe Tong O, the schoolmaster, said that his father was a disciple of Son Pyong Hui, the third leader of the religion. School superintendent Kang Je Ha\and his son Kang Pyong Son were also devout followers of Chondoism. At the Hwasong Uisuk School many students displayed their learning, by reciting Tonggyongtaejon (Complete Collection of Tonghak ures), Ryongdamyusa\and other Tonghak ures by rote, while others eagerly read the monthly Kaebyok (Creation), issued by the Chondoist centre, taking it with them,\and commented on the Korean rural community rom the viewpoint of the Tonghak doctrine\and Ri Ton Hwa’s writings.


Choe Tong O prevented the students rom reading The Communist Manifesto, but encouraged them to read Tonggyongtaejon\and Kaebyok. When the history teacher was absent, the schoolmaster often appeared in his place\and gave us a lecture. In such cases history lessons used to be transformed into a lecture on the history of Tonghak without exception. He always analyzed\and judged all the shocking events\and facts rom our modern history in relation to Tonghak. Proceeding rom the Chondoist doctrine, Choe Tong O advocated the three principles centred on nation, people\and man, similar to Sun Yat-sen’s Three People’s Principles.


The most striking of the stories he told us in connection with Chondoism concerned his introduction to Choe Je U, the founder\and first leader of the religion.

I still recall vividly what he emphasized, after telling us about Choe Je U’s career\and how Tonghak was enunciated.

 

“We all call Mr. Choe Je U, who founded Tonghak, the Most Venerable Suun. So it is desirable that you do not simply call him Choe Je U, but rather use the honorific title of Most Venerable.”

According to Choe Tong O, Koun Choe Chi Won, a famous scholar of our country in the ninth century, was a remote ancestor of Choe Je U.

Choe Je U’s father Choe Ok had a remarkable talent for poetry. His collection of poems Kunammunjip was famous in his day.

Choe Je U lost his mother when he was six\and his father at sixteen\and roamed about the country for nearly twenty years. He sought a way to deliver the country\and people rom mismanagement\and evil practices,\and in April 1860 proclaimed the doctrine of the Chondoist faith, which exerted a great influence on the modern history of Korea\and founded Tonghak.

Choe Je U called Chondoism Tonghak (Eastern Learning), in\order to stress that it was a religious philosophy of the Korean people in the East, in contrast to Roman Catholicism, a “Western Learning”.

When Choe Je U was active, abuse of royal power\and factional strife precipitated the nation to an abyss of ruin,\and national strength declined to the extreme. The rebellions of peasants against the feudal tyranny occurred successively\and socio-political chaos, aggravated by famine\and flood, went to the extreme. Social\and class conflicts between the nobility\and common people reached the\limit. The feudal caste relations, which had supported the existence of the Ri dynasty for several hundred years institutionally, became a cursed fetter impeding the prosperity of the country\and social development. Tyranny\and molestation by corrupt officials reduced public welfare to the greatest misery,\and the popular rights, which were only nominal, were deplorable.


Korea in the East, which remained a closed country for several hundred years, was coveted by the great powers, which sought to acquire wealth\and expand their territory. Western powers, with Roman Catholicism serving as a guide, was about to stretch their tentacles to the Korean peninsula.

 

The prelude to “Wailing all day over the nation’s fall” was, in effect, already ready at that time. It was only natural that in those days the pioneers of the times, who were sincerely concerned about the destiny of the country\and nation, sought new thoughts\and ideals. Choe Je U, leading the pioneers, enunciated Tonghak, whose basic ideas were “Innaechon” (Man\and God are one)\and “Poguk anmin”\and carried out energetic efforts to preach\and propagate its doctrine throughout the world.

“Friends, if you want to understand Tonghak, look at the slogan ‘Poguk anmin’.” Whenever Choe Tong O spoke about Chondoism he set the theme up like a placard.

“‘Poguk’ means defending the country rom aggression, while ‘anmin’ implies the provision of welfare for the people\and countering tyranny. What a fine doctrine it is! Song Ju, how do you like ‘Poguk anmin’?” the schoolmaster once asked me unexpectedly.

I said, “I think it is a good slogan. If Chondoism advocates ‘Poguk anmin’, I will support the faith.”

I really meant it. At that time the communist idea had already become an important ideological pillar in my life, but I expressed my support for Tonghak without hesitation. All sensible people want to defend the country\and promote the welfare of the people.

Pleased, Choe Tong O looked at me with a smile,\and said:


“Those who oppose ‘Poguk anmin’ are not Koreans. The slogan of the world revolution that the Communist Party advocates is good, but the slogan of ‘Poguk anmin’ is vital for our country\and the Korean nation, isn’t it? I’m sure the Most Venerable Suun is a wonderful man.”

My knowledge of Chondoism in my Hwasong Uisuk School days was not linked with practice; it was narrow, raw, commonplace\and fragmentary.

During my life in Jilin I began to pay deep attention to the study of Tonghak in connection with practice. The search for a new path for the Korean revolution mostly kept us away rom doctrines\and the interpretation negated by history. However, we refrained rom assuming a nihilistic attitude toward the former ideas\and movements themselves. We were opposed to a blind transplantation of established theories\and the experience of others, but adopted with an open mind what we considered good there.

The question of the united front was raised as an important strategic task around the time of the Kalun meeting in our revolutionary practice. The question of the forces to be embraced, shunned\or isolated was raised everywhere\and frequently caused heated dispute. Whenever a debate arose over the parties, which the united front was to be formed with, the question of religion, together with that of non-comprador capitalists, became the major topic, which could not be ignored.

The Chondoist faith, along with the Christian faith, was one of the important religions in my consideration. Chondoism attracted our attention in those days\and the activity of its followers became a matter of concern, for as a Korean religion, it consistently advocated patriotism\and love of the people ideologically\and in practice,\and was widely propagated\and had a strong permeability.


Like Capital, the Tonggyongtaejon merited deep study, but was difficult to read. Choe Je U’s writings, which described the universe, things, natural\and other phenomena in a mystic\and abstruse manner, were hard to understand. Kim Tal Hyon, too, who was active as a cadre at the Chondoist centre after liberation, admitted that the writings of the Most Venerable Suun were hard to understand. Kim Tal Hyon said that if Choe Je U’s writings had been as easy as Ryu Rin Sok’s appeal, Tonghak would have attracted tens of thousands more followers.


The journal Kaebyok served as a guide for us to understand the Chondoist faith. The title Kaebyok was derived rom the phrase “Huchon Kaebyok” (a posteriori creation) which was one of the main doctrines of the Chondoist faith. Throughout the issues of dozens of numbers since the inaugural issue, Kaebyok maintained the characteristics of a comprehensive political\and current affairs journal\and contributed greatly to the enlightenment of the nation. The journal was rich in nationalist colouring, but also carried articles introducing socialist ideas. It was an innovative mass journal, which was very popular among readers in those days.

The Young Chondoist Party was expanding its branches in the northern part of Korea, eastern, southern\and northern Manchuria up to Harbin in those days. Consequently Kaebyok had many readers in Manchuria as well.


I read an article by Sin Il Yong in Kaebyok. He was a theoretical adversary during my life in Jilin. He was entirely absorbed in the rural question in the mid-1920s. His article Study of the Rural Question carried in the journal was theoretically profound.

Kaebyok carried many articles about different countries. Ri Ton Hwa’s travelogue Journey through Southern Manchuria stood out most. I read it in Guyushu\or Wujiazi. It provided a detailed account of the scenery of Manchuria, the customs of the Chinese, the wretched plight of coal miners in Fushun\and the efforts of independence champions of our country. According to the travelogue, the inhabitants of southern Manchuria had a strange custom of leaving a dead body placed in a coffin outdoors without burying it in the earth,\and if it was a child who died under the age of seven, of hanging it wrapped in a mat on a tree.


Of  the  different  genres  carried  in  Kaebyok  the  articles  advocating patriotism whetted the appetite of the readers most. The journal often carried such articles on The Unique Merits of the Korean Nation, The Mettle\and Efforts of Koguryo People, The Geography of Korea Blessed with Natural Resources, providing us an account of the history\and geography of Korea, its natural beauty\and features of different districts\and local products, including an article Pride of Eight Provinces by Their Representatives. This article was based mainly on a realist scholar’s comment on the mettle of the inhabitants of eight provinces of Korea. He likened the character of the inhabitants of Phyongan Province to that of “a tiger rushing out of a forest”. In the article a man rom Phyongan Province, who was as fierce as a tiger rushing out of a forest, but was never ill-disposed, boasted of his province, while a man rom Hamgyong Province, named “unyielding Jo”, who was tenacious like “a dog fighting in mud”, reeled off the pride of his province by prefacing his story with the fact that the ancestral mountain Paektu was in Hamgyong Province,\and so on. It described the characteristics of the people of each province so vividly that it always drew a smile rom the reader.

All the boasts of these eight provinces were interwoven with interesting stories which aroused national pride\and self-respect in the reader.


As officials concerned found out, the Pride of Eight Provinces by Their Representatives was carried in the July issue of the journal in 1925. Recently I got hold of the journal\and read the article again, experiencing new feelings. Although half a century had passed since then, I still found it interesting.

The popular articles in Kaebyok included one called Foreigners’ Impressions on Korea. It gave fragmentary impressions on Korea of the German, French, Chinese, Japanese, American, Russian, British\and other people under such titles as “Most Talented People in the World,” “Three Wonders,” “Most Polite People in the World,” “Four Beauties of Korea,” “Seven Creeds about Korea,” “Natural Beauties\and Kind Hearts”\and “Impressions on Koreans”. It was pleasant to appreciate Korea by reading foreigners’ impressions rom a Korean standpoint.


The journal Kaebyok described the pride of Korea as seen by Koreans to be the “best-natured people in the world,” “excellent health,” “unexcelled morals,” “future model people of the world,”\and “Koreans without cruelty”.

The article Tonghak Party of Korea\and the Kuomintang of China also aroused the readers’ interests. The author remarked that the only groups, which fought with the aim of reforming society in the\orient, were the Kuomintang of China\and the Tonghak Party of Korea\and proudly boasted that Choe Je U had enunciated Tonghak over 40 years earlier than Sun Yat-sen. Tracing back in memory, it seems to me that the biggest contributor to the journal Kaebyok was Ri Ton Hwa, chief of the editorial section of the central Chondoist body\and editor of Kaebyok. His pen name was Yaroe. He was a talented theoretician who played a leading role in establishing the Tonghak doctrine theoretically\and expounding it philosophically. I believe that the services he rendered to its propagation by his works The Essence of “Innaechon’”, Regeneration Philosophy, Lecture on Suun’s Doctrine\and History of the Foundation of the Chondoist Faith will occupy worthy pages in the history of the Chondoist faith.

I became interested in Ri Ton Hwa after reading the journal Kaebyok. Pak In Jin gave me comparatively detailed information about him. Pak In Jin was favourably disposed to him. Pak In Jin even advised me to meet him. But as I fought the Japanese imperialists in the mountains, it was very difficult for me to meet him, as he was in Seoul. I knew that he lived in Yangdok\and served the Chondoist faith after liberation, but I could not find the time to meet him. At times I received fragmentary information of his activity rom Kim Tal Hyon, chairman of the Chondoist Chongu Party.


Kim Tal Hyon, too, did not know exactly how he died.


According to the officials, he went to Jagang Province following the People’s Army soldiers who were going northwards in autumn 1950\and stayed there for some time before being killed in the bombing by US planes.


Ri Ton Hwa’s death was a sad, heartrending loss to the readers of Kaebyok, who had loved him,\and also to the followers of Chondoist faith.

In the light of his political views, Ri Ton Hwa seems to have belonged to a conservative\and moderate group rather than the young reformers. However, judging rom his writings which advocated the preservation of nationality\and national prestige\and moral self-cultivation, I believe he was a conscientious intellectual with a clean record, as well as a religious man who ardently loved his nation.

I used to exchange views with Kang Pyong Son after reading articles in Kaebyok\and debate the position\and doctrine of Tonghak. He was best informed  of  the  Chondoist  faith  among  members  of  the  Down-with-Imperialism\union. An ardent adherent of communism at the same time, he looked favourably on the Tonghak idea he had worshiped\and the\organization of the Chondoist faith. There were many followers of Chondoist faith in Changsong,\where Kang Pyong Son was born,\and in Uiju, Pyoktong\and Sakju. Kang Je Ha, Choe Tong O\and Kong Yong were patriots who played a leading part in the community of the Chondoist faith in those areas in North Phyongan Province. Through the channel of the Chondoist faith, Kang Pyong Son greatly expanded the subordinate\organizations of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland in North Phyongan Province in the latter half of the 1930s.


As most of those, who belonged to the young reformist force of the Chondoist faith, at first he practically absolutized the role, which Chondoism played in the anti-aggression\and anti-feudal struggle in our country in modern times, beginning with the Tonghak rebellion,\and thought that all problems, both big\and small, related to the shaping of the destiny of the nation could only be solved by Chondoism. This probably was the main point in our argument about Chondoism.

Naturally I fully recognized the services Tonghak had rendered to the struggle against feudalism\and aggression\and for the modernization of the country\and social development. I recognized the national, patriotic\and people-loving character of Tonghak as well. However, I did not adhere to the view\and attitude that all problems could only be solved by relying on Tonghak.

Kang Pyong Son himself abandoned his view of the omnipotence of the Chondoist faith during practical struggle. He engaged in underground activity together with Zhang Wei-hua in Fusong in the early 1930s\and was arrested by the police while acting as our political worker in northern Manchuria in the late 1930s; he died a heroic death in prison.

The idea of “Man\and God are one”, maintained by the Tonghak followers can be said to be relatively progressive, as it valued man, likening him to God,

 

but was inevitably theoretically inconsistent, because it was not free of religious elements\and regarded man as a divine existence.

Choe Je U, the founder of Tonghak,\and the second\and third leaders of this religion who succeeded him, maintained that Chondoism represented the ultimate truth, born of the\organic integration of three religions— Confucianism, Buddhism\and Songyo—and accordingly was not a heretic religion, unlike Roman Catholicism.

The theoreticians of the Chondoist faith further developed the predecessors’ theory on the integration of the three religions\and advocated the\originality of Tonghak as the national religion.

Advocating the\originality of the doctrine of the Chondoist faith, one of its reformist theoreticians negated the doctrines of all former religions, including the Nirvana theory of Buddhism, the Hyonmyo theory of Songyo, the Paradise theory of Christianity\and the Divine will theory of Confucianism\and other mysticisms\and idolatries,\and preached “God-man identity”\or “Man\and God are one,” that man is Buddha, Divine, God\or Heaven\and that, consequently, there is nothing beyond man.

The basic idea of Tonghak is “God-man identity”\or “Man\and God are one,” which means that man is “Heaven”.

Chondoism maintains that “Heaven”, that is, the entire universe, is composed of special ether called jigi. It holds that it is neither material\or spiritual, but rather something both material\and spiritual\and that nature, man\and God are all composed of jigi.

The “jigi theory” of Tonghak, which holds that jigi is the\origin of the world\and the source of all matter, is a sort of spirit theory, which maintains that all matters contain spirit. It can be regarded as part of pan-psychism.

The Chondoist faith, based on the “jigi theory”, holds that like “Heaven” man has spirit, whether alive\or dead. Namely, man is a special being with a spirit, which ranks first among all things in the world.


It follows rom the spirit theory that man does not lead an independent\and creative life at his own discretion, but instead has to live, following the predestined course of life under the control of the spirit. The spirit theory inevitably resolves into fatalism. rom fatalism it cannot be inferred that man is master of everything\and decides everything himself, that one is responsible for one’s own destiny\and that one has also the ability to shape one’s own destiny.

The prospect of the future society, offered by Tonghak, is not a scientific goal conforming with the law of social development. It stipulates that if virtues are promoted throughout the world by non-violent struggle, the time will come when all men become like God\and then earthly paradise will come. It holds that man will be transformed into God, when he examines\and realizes himself continuously\and thereby promotes the awakening of conscience, while making daily incantations.

In short, the idea of “Man\and God are one” is not based on materialism, but rather on theism.

The Chondoist faith did not play a leading role in the anti-Japanese national liberation struggle, owing to its class\limitation, theoretical\and practical immaturity. That was the main reason why we did not support the omnipotence of Tonghak.

Although this was our attitude to the Chondoist faith, we valued its merits\and believed there was a possibility for it to join hands with us ideologically\and practically for the united front.

Chondoism’s highest ideal is to build a paradise on earth. The former religions held that this world is distressful\and irredeemable, while Chondoism preached that this world can be transformed into an earthly paradise. rom this principle, Chondoism regarded “a posteriori creation” as one of its important missions\and launched a practical struggle for the three reforms, called “spiritual reform”, “national reform”\and “social reform”.

The theoreticians of Tonghak hold that Chondoism differs not only rom the Christian faith, which sets the aim of attaining happiness in the world to come\and paradise after death, by merely professing their faith,\and rom Confucianism, which regards moral culture\and acquisition of knowledge as essential for indoctrination\and advocates agreement between politics\and religion, attaching importance to the promotion of virtues in this world, but also rom Buddhism, which considers mercy as the basic tenet, while maintaining that man can become a Buddha.

Christianity is dynamic, they said, in comparison with static Buddhism, but Chondoism is more dynamic than the Christian faith,\and that Buddhism markedly tends to reason, Christianity to sensitivity, while Chondoism combines both aspects.

The doctrine of the Chondoist faith opposes blind worship of Heaven\and maintains the need to believe in man himself, unlike other religions which preach that the feudal social system\or caste is the\order\ordained by Heaven, talking about the supernatural\and superhuman character of Heaven\or God. Therefore, we considered that the Chondoist faith had a positive aspect of progressive religion, advocating respect to man\and human equality.

While establishing the Juche-orientated line of our revolution, naturally I displayed interest in different established theories\and movements\and positively recognized the position\and role of Chondoism as national religion. However, proceeding rom the specifics of our country’s historical development, the environment of our revolution\and historical analysis of previous movements,\and fully taking into account our national tradition\and balance of class forces, I evolved the Juche theory, explored the path for our revolution\and accordingly worked out a strategy\and tactics.


The new generation of communists never contemplated engineering a revolution with the help of Heaven\or according to God’s will, but rather embarked on the path of struggle, convinced that we must fight, believing in\and depending on the strength of our people.

After the foundation of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland heated debates ensued on how to view the Chondoist faith.

 

Particularly around the time of Tojong Pak In Jin’s visit to our secret camp, interest in Tonghak increased among the commanding officers of our troop.

After his visit to the secret camp we pushed ahead more confidently with the line of a united front with the Chondoists.

In retrospect, proceeding rom its religious doctrine, Chondoism waged a practical struggle for “defending the country\and providing of welfare for the people” which aimed to secure public welfare by rejecting foreign forces\and establishing national independence\and people’s sovereignty,\and securing a peaceful world, that is, an earthly paradise by “promoting virtues in the world”\and “delivering the people”.

Tonghak received support rom broad sections of the poor\and lowly\and the ruined nobles for the patriotic\and people-loving character of its doctrine\and spirit of strong resistance. The propagation of the Tonghak doctrine, which claimed abolition of the discrimination between the noble\and mean, constituted a great threat to the prevailing position of the feudal Confucian idea, which absolutized discrimination between the noble\and mean, a formidable challenge to the feudal privileged class. Therefore, Choe Je U, the founder of Tonghak\and first religious leader, was executed in Taegu in March 1864, charged with violating the laws\and disturbing the government. The second religious leader Choe Si Hyong, who had secretly been engaged in the dissemination of Tonghak\and expansion of the\organization, in the face of harsh suppression\and pursuit of the feudal government of the Ri dynasty\and fought as a leader of the Kabo Peasant War, was condemned to death in Seoul.


The third religious leader, Son Pyong Hui, who named Tonghak as Chondoism, in accordance with the intention of its founder\and was a mastermind of the March First Movement, was harshly suppressed\and persecuted by Japanese imperialists. As the lives of its successive leaders show, Chondoism was entirely patriotic\and people-loving in its\origin\and development.

The  Kabo  Peasant  War,  called  the  first  Tonghak  revolution  in  the Chondoist community, was the biggest\and fiercest war in the anti-aggression\and the anti-feudal struggle of our people in the latter half of the 19th century.

The Kabo Peasant War was neither planned by the upper echelons of the Chondoist faith\or triggered off by their directives, but was rather an anti-government rebellion of the peasants, who resented the tyranny\and brutal plunder of the corrupt\and impotent feudal privileged class. The Kabo Peasant War was started by Jon Pong Jun\and other leaders of the peasants’ rebellion, under the banner of “eradicating tyranny\and saving the people”, “driving out Westerners\and the Japanese”\and “defending the country\and providing welfare for the people”, independent of the upper echelon of Tonghak. The leaders of the rebellion transformed the peasants’ rebellion in Kobu into an all-out peasant war by establishing contact with local Tonghak\organizations through the Tonghak\organizations they belonged to.


The Kabo Peasant War was a historic event, which served as a prelude to the anti-imperialist national-liberation struggle in Asia in the 19th century. Along with the Tai-ping Peasant War in China\and the Sepoy Mutiny against England in India, it was notable as one of the three big resistance wars in Asia.

The Kabo Peasant War ended in failure owing to the intervention of the Japanese\and Qing armies, but the peasant troops, who scattered to different parts of the country, became the main force of the subsequent anti-Japanese volunteer movement\and continued the resistance war for national salvation.

The Kabo Peasant War not only left serious traces in the historical development of our country, but also exerted a considerable influence on the development of the political situation in the\orient\and rest of the world. A Korean historian, who examined the worldwide significance of the Tonghak revolution, commented that the\origin of world-historic events, which threw the world into upheaval in the 20th century, can be traced back to the Tonghak revolution in Korea. He wrote, “If it had not been for the Tonghak revolution in Korea, the Sino-Japanese War would not have broken out. If China had emerged victorious in the Sino-Japanese War, Russia would not have been able to invade Manchuria. Had it not been for the Russian invasion of Manchuria, the Russo-Japanese War would not have broken out. If Russia had not been defeated in the Russo-Japanese War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire would have been unable to spread its wings over the Balkan peninsula. If the empire had not annexed Bosnia\and Hercegovina, the war between Austria\and Serbia would not have broken out,\and had it not been for the Austro-Serbian War, World War I would not have broken out. If World War I had not broken out, the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty in Russia would not have been dreamed of\and the world could not have seen the birth of Red Russia. Oh, Tonghak Party, you indirectly served as the spark for the world war\and brought about the birth of a worker-peasant Russia.”


Advocates of the Tonghak idea regarded Tonghak as the first step to the modernization of the East.

The Chondoist forces played a big role in the March First Movement. The main force of the popular uprising naturally came rom the broad masses of workers\and peasants, youth, students\and intellectuals. The national champions, who started the uprising, were not only Christians\and Buddhists but also Chondoists\and these Chondoists took the initiative. In addition, more than half of all Chondoists (3,000,000) took part in demonstrations. These facts indicate the considerable role played by Chondoism in the anti-Japanese struggle.


The spirit of strong resistance of Chondoism constituted the major reason, why we attached importance to the united front with the Chondoists.

The Chondoist faith, as the Korean religion, was novel in its ideas\and doctrines, it had a spirit of strong resistance: as it was simple in rites\and practice, it was popular in nature.

Kim Jong Ju, the first Minister of Communications in the Cabinet of the Republic, used to say proudly that Tonghak was a modest national religion. About the time when we\organized the anti-Japanese guerrilla army, he had joined the faith\and later became a member of the central executive committee of the Young Chondoist Party. He was versed in the doctrines of the faith.

 

Kim Jong Ju was a good-looking Chondoist. Whenever he met me, he used to joke.

“Premier, you must be tired working all day. Please relax a bit\and listen to my old stories.” Beginning in this way he would tell his old stories in my office for some time.

Once on a visit to me during a holiday, he boasted of Chondoism.


“Our Chondoism has the flavour of homely bean paste soup.” When I asked what he had in mind, he answered, “It can easily be seen even rom ‘services with clean water’. When performing ‘services with clean water’, one may sit as one chooses—cross-legged, with knees raised\or sideways. Such liberty is never allowed in other religions.”

I talked much about religion with Kim Tal Hyon. He often repeated the anecdotes he had experienced when active in the\organization of the Chondoist faith under Japanese rule. Frequent talks with him helped establish our human ties, independent of the business-like notion that I was the Premier\and he was the Chairman of the Chondoist Chongu Party. He frankly told me the problems he faced in his daily life.

Once he came to the building of the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea past midnight\and asked for an interview. This happened when I was working as Chairman of the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea: it must have been 1946.

It was surprising that he called on me past midnight, without giving any notice. I even had the ominous presentiment that something unusual had happened to him which he felt obliged to tell me.

But he surprised me further with an unexpected request, totally unrelated to official business.

“Don’t blame this old man for lacking a sense of honour. I know it may sound very presumptuous, but would you get me some tonics like wild insam (ginseng)\or antler, please?”

Even after entering my office, he hesitated, before saying what he had come to see me about\and then, bracing himself, blurted out these words. Then he lowered his head without looking at me as if he were guilty. Wondering what the matter was with the old chairman, I looked closely at him\and saw that he had blushed up to his ears.

Inviting him to sit down, I gently asked, “You always boasted about your health. How come you suddenly need tonic?”

“To tell the truth, the trouble is that I cannot manage my wife. I married a young woman recently\and she treats me badly.... General, please help me.”

“I’ll help, if your wife slights you.”


At this he beamed with joy\and left.


I obtained some wild insam\and antler\and sent them to him.


After a year he called on me again.


“Thanks to you I begot a son at the age of seventy. My wife is very happy. I would like to invite you to attend the party to celebrate the first one hundred days of our baby.”

“It is a very happy event. These are good times, so we have such happy events. I accept your invitation with pleasure. Please convey my congratulations to your wife on the birth of her son.”

This time, too, he beamed as he left my office.


I called at Kim Tal Hyon’s house as I had promised, to attend the party on the hundredth day after his son’s birth. His wife served me tasty dishes\and bowed to me, saying, “You brought happiness to our home.” That day she offered me hospitality, smiling all the time.

During the war I met Kim Tal Hyon in Pyolo in Jagang Province. We talked about the Chondoist faith over noodles. He said that rice donation was an excellent customary practice peculiar to the Chondoist faith\and served as the main financial source for the practice of the faith.

In fact, most successive leaders of Chondoism, except Choe Rin\and some others, led a frugal life, disregarding personal gain\and fame. They always experienced a dearth of funds. It might be easy to say, but not so easy to practise the faith, without receiving pay. Chondoist ministers do not receive pay, I am told.

The followers of the Chondoist faith in south Korea once financed the faith with earnings rom a theatre they had built on the site of a former printing house for Kaebyok, I hear. Two wedding halls arranged, in the central temple served as the main means to boost their finances\and rent was charged per hour. It was an awkward stopgap, but unavoidable.

We attached importance to the united front with the followers of the Chondoist faith, mainly because their overwhelming majority were anti-Japanese\and patriotic, although its upper echelons were irresolute\and opportunist,\and also because the grassroots were poor\and lowly, mainly poor peasants, in class composition.

Originally the Chondoist faith had started as a peasant movement, based on peasants\and its doctrine was peasant in nature. It was natural\and inevitable that the Tonghak movement was based on peasants in our country, in those days when capitalist development was still incipient\and the modern working class lacked a true force. The Tonghak movement was not only for the peasants. It was a broad mass movement, which represented the desires\and interests of all the poor\and lowly, including the poor\and shopkeepers in cities. At the same time a nationwide anti-aggression patriotic movement, which opposed all foreign aggressors, tended towards the modernization of the country.


After failure in the March First Movement, the upper echelons of the Chondoist faith lost its fighting spirit\and confined themselves to insignificant propagation of the faith\and little theoretical activity to maintain nationality,\and some of them, Choe Rin, for example, turned pro-Japanese after three years’ imprisonment.

However, the lower echelons of the faith made every effort to carry forward  the  patriotic  tradition  of  the  faith  under  harsh  Japanese  rule, disregarding the treachery of the upper echelons. This was the mass base, which made us attach importance to a united front with the Chondoist faith\and convinced us of its possibilities.

The progressive leaders of the Chondoist movement, who did their best to link the movement with other revolutionary forces of the country\and sought cooperation with the international revolution, professed that Chondoism was in the “service for the poor\and lowly”, that it was a “homogeneous communist party of a different scale”\and hoped for contact with the Comintern.

For instance, Ri Ton Hwa applied for membership of the Red Peasant International on behalf of the Council of the Korean Peasant Group towards the end of October 1925.

The Korean Peasant Group was a peasant\organization under the Young Chondoist Party, which was founded in Seoul in October 1925.

After the end of World War I\and establishment of the worker-peasant government in Russia\and development of the internal\and external situation following the March First Popular Uprising, Ri Ton Hwa, Jong To Jun, Pak Rae Hong\and other young Chondoists founded the doctrine lecture department for young Chondoists in September 1919, with a view to studying\and disseminating the Chondoist doctrine\and promoting the Korean new culture, to set up the first militant youth\organization in our country. Some time later the\organization was renamed the Young Chondoist Society. The society founded the Kaebyok Company as its mouthpiece\and began to issue the political\and current affairs journal Kaebyok in 1920. It set up a children’s department\and conducted vigorous activity to cultivate the Korean children’s aesthetic sentiments\and improve their moral treatment\and social status, in conformity with the doctrine, “Man\and God are one.”


In 1923 the Young Chondoist Society was reorganized into the Young Chondoist Party\and acted as the vanguard\organization of Chondoism, aiming at building an earthly paradise by “a posteriori creation”.

The party had a well-organized system, consisting of the head office in the capital, local branches in provincial capitals\and county towns\and the lowest organizations called job in sub-counties\and dong. It conducted vigorous activity to propagate the faith, drawing up a three-year plan for expansion of the party influence\and extended its ranks by attracting many young people rom the poor\and lowly strata in a short space of time. The Young Chondoist Party became the most influential denominational force, particularly in the area north of the River Ryesong, which had not been ravaged by the Tonghak rebellion.

According to the History of the Young Chondoist Party, published in 1935, in those days at least 100 local branches of the party existed at home\and abroad. A large proportion of them (70%) were located in the northern part of the country. Phyongan Province had 40 of them, the largest number. In fact, almost every county had a local branch of the Young Chondoist Party in the former Phyongan Province, which covered today’s Jagang Province, Pyongyang City\and the area up to Nampho City.


The presence of the overwhelming majority of the Chondoist force in the northern part of the country in those days constituted another major reason why we attached importance to the united front with the Chondoist faith.

The reformist force of Chondoism also made every effort to extend their influence\and energetically waged an anti-Japanese patriotic struggle, riding the tide of the world situation, following the March First Movement.

In July 1922, after the death of Son Pyong Hui, the third Chondoist leader, the young revolutionary reformists of the Chondoist faith strove to restore\and reorganize their forces by\organizing the Koryo Revolutionary Committee\and conducted vigorous activity at home\and abroad, in the Maritime Provinces\and in Manchuria, in particular. Subsequently the Koryo Revolutionary Committee was reorganized into the Extraordinary Supreme Revolutionary Chondoist Commission, a secret underground revolutionary\organization.

What is particularly conspicuous in its activity is that it requested the Soviet Russian government\and the Comintern to provide political support\and considerable military aid to the revolutionary activity of the Chondoists,\and carried out energetic efforts to attain them. It is said that they planned to train about a thousand soldiers under the guise of employing labour in two years time around three gold mines near Chita in Siberia\and further\organize a Koryo National Revolutionary Army, composed of 15 composite brigades.

The secret\organization of the Chondoists called on the Soviet worker-peasant government to provide positive assistance for the implementation of the plan.

The old documents in our hands reveal some of the diplomatic activity carried out by the reformists, meeting personages rom Soviet Russia\and the Comintern in Vladivostok in the Far East in early 1924.

Then Choe Tong Hui sent a letter to Katayama Sen\and asked him how the Comintern viewed the Korean revolution\and the situation developing in Korea\and urged unprejudiced positive assistance to the Korean revolution.

The Chondoists aimed to establish close ties with the social revolutionary force of Japan in the east\and Soviet Russia\and the Comintern in the north for cooperation with Korea, Japan\and Russia in the case of an outbreak of revolution in Korea.

As mentioned above, the revolutionary reformists made every effort to wage an armed resistance struggle in cooperation with the international revolution, disregarding the obstruction\and hatred of the conservative Chondoist faction.

The revolutionary reformists strove in every way to dedicate themselves to the anti-Japanese struggle, with their patriotic\and people-loving zeal\and grievances kindled by the Tonghak movement, but achieved no real results. Worse still, after the failure of the March First Movement, the Chondoist faith divided into radicals\and moderates\and sharp conflicts occurred between them. The  Japanese  imperialists  tried  to  exploit  this  factor \and  the  radicals compromised in a bid to prevent a split. This seemed to weaken the revolutionary  reformists, \and  their  anti-Japanese  movement  gradually regressed into some sort of non-violent movement. Once the upper echelons of the Chondoist faith became non-violent national reformists\and tended to be openly pro-Japanese, Chondoism gradually lost its revolutionary nature\and reached a low ebb.

However, the local Chondoist\organizations\and overwhelming majority of their grassroots\and members of the Young Chondoist Party formed legal\and illegal\organizations\and fought Japanese colonial rule in various ways. Unfortunately they had neither a definite strategy of struggle\or a force capable of unified leadership.

At this juncture we advanced to Mt. Paektu\and proclaimed the Ten-Point Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland.

Millions of Chondoists provided their enthusiastic support for the programme. They firmly united under the banner of the ARF, convinced that the morning star they aspired was shining over Mt. Paektu. Therefore, the Chondoists accepted the united front\and many of them joined the subordinate\organizations of the ARF. It was the result of our positive\and active efforts, based on a fair appreciation\and broad understanding of the Chondoist faith, as well as the inevitable outcome of the development of the\organization of the Chondoist faith, whose guiding ideas were patriotism, love of the people\and opposition to foreign forces.


Naturally, there were certain differences between our movement\and theirs in ideal, principle\and doctrine\and in starting points, but we firmly joined hands for the great cause, because we were one nation, of the same stock. At that time I keenly felt that there could be no communist movement, divorced rom the nation\and that the national interest, as well as class interest, should always be respected.

Because of this community I could easily become reconciled with Choe Tok Sin, who had been in the forefront of the battle against communism.

Although Choe Tok Sin\and I were on the wrong side of seventy when we met, I received him excitedly with no past enmity at the thought of having fostered patriotism under Choe Tong O,\and enjoyed a friendly, warm-hearted talk with him as colleagues of the same nation\and stock, transcending ideological differences between communism\and Chondoism.

Recently I published the “Ten-Point Programme of Great National Unity for National Reunification”, which could be called a renewed version of the Ten-Point Programme of the ARF. In the 1930s, when we were cooperating with Pak In Jin in the area of Mt. Paektu, national liberation constituted the supreme task for our nation. Today, at the turn of the 20th century, our supreme programme\and ideal are to reunify the divided country. It was only natural that our struggle to wipe out foreign forces\and restore national sovereignty receives enthusiastic support rom the Chondoists, who had put up the slogans “defending the country\and providing welfare for the people”\and “driving out the Westerners\and the Japanese” in the past.


Owing to the division, our nation has experienced all kinds of suffering for nearly half a century. This is not a tragedy caused by our nation itself, but rather one which was imposed by foreign forces. Why should we not oppose the foreign forces\and advocate national reunification, building up the nation\and great national unity?

Consequently, the patriotic-minded Chondoists, Christians\and Buddhists in the north\and south of Korea\and abroad are all fighting to bring an end to the tragic national division imposed by the foreign forces\and bring about the new day of national reunification more rapidly.

It was not for personal comfort\or personal glory,\or for the interests of a certain class\or social stratum, but for the liberation of the entire nation rom Japanese colonial rule that we waged earlier on the anti-Japanese armed struggle in the expanses of Manchuria\and area around Mt. Paektu for over twenty years.

It is the unanimous belief of all Koreans in the north\and south of Korea\and abroad that no God, interests of a certain class\or party can stand above the nation\and that they should climb over any abyss\or barrier for the good of the nation; they realize this more keenly with the passage of time.

 

If the aim\and ideal we communists have fought for, devoting our whole lives for the good of the nation, are realized,\and if the 70 million compatriots live in lasting happiness in a reunified country, I think this is the very earthly paradise, which the Tonghak martyrs yearned for.

The ideal of Tonghak, the ideal of Chondoism, throbbing with national spirit, is the pride of our nation. The patriotism of these martyrs, who dedicated themselves to the motherland\and fellow countrymen, will remain enshrined for ever in the history of our nation.



 Related articles

[Reminiscences]Chapter 12.To Hasten theLiberation of the Country 5. The Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland 

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  1. We Struck Commander Wang\and Won Over Wan Shun

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  2. In the Dear Walled Town

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  3. Premiere of The Sea of Blood

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  4. The Women’s Company

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  5. The Secret Camp on Mt. Paektu

[Reminiscences]Chapter 13. Towards Mt. Paektu  6. Patriotic Landowner Kim Jong Bu

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  1. West Jiandao

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  2. The Sound of the Watermill

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  3. Ri Je Sun

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  4. With the Comrades-in-Arms in Southern Manchuria

[Reminiscences]Chapter 14. The People In Changbai  5. Samil Wolgan

[Reminiscences]Chapter 15. Expansion of the Under-ground Front 1. The Indomitable Fighter, Pak Tal

[Reminiscences]Chapter 15. Expansion of the Under-ground Front 2. Homeland Party Working Committee

[Reminiscences]Chapter 15. Expansion of the Under-ground Front 3. Fighting at the Foot of Mt. Paektu

[Reminiscences]Chapter 15. Expansion of the Under-ground Front 4. Tojong Pak In Jin



     

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