Original Articles

The Post-Jeungsan Grassroots Movements: Charismatic Leadership in Bocheongyo and Mugeukdo in Colonial Korea

David W. KIM 1 , * https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7317-8617
Author Information & Copyright
1Harvard University, USA/ Kookmin University, Korea
*Corresponding to : david.kim@anu.edu.au

David W. Kim (PhD, Sydney) is an Associate Professor of Asian History at the College of General Education, Kookmin University, Seoul and an Honorary Lecturer at the School of History, Australian National University, Canberra. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, UK and is the Editor of Studies in Modern East Asian Religion and Culture (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK). Kim’s publications include Sacred Sites and Sacred Stories Across Cultures: Transmission of Oral Tradition, Myth, and Religiosity (2021), Daesoon Jinrihoe in Modern Korea: The Emergence, Transformation, and Transmission of a New Religion (2020), New Religious Movements in Modern Asian History: Sociocultural Alternatives (2020).

© Copyright 2023 The Daesoon Academy of Sciences. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Jul 24, 2023; Revised: Aug 31, 2023; Accepted: Sep 20, 2023

Published Online: Sep 30, 2023


The politico-economic waives of Western imperialism and colonialism, along with Christianity, affected East Asia’s geopolitical landscape in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. While the Korean people (of the Joseon Dynasty) witnessed the incompetence of Buddhism, Confucianism, and folk religions in maintaining social cohesion with a sense of frustration, the new religious movements (NRMs) emerged to provide altrnative teachings of hope through historical figures like Choe Je-u, Kang Il-sun (or Kang Jeungsan), Na Cheol, and Pak Chungbin. In terms of popularity, colonial Korea (1910–1940) was impressed by the native groups of Cheondogyo (=Donghak), Bocheongyo, and Mugeukdo. Son Byong-hee (1861–1922) was the third leader of the first Korean NRM, but both Cha Gyeong-seok (1880–1936) and Jo Cheol-Je (= Jo Jeongsan) (1895–1958) participated in the post-Jeungsan grassroots movements. How, then, did both of these new religions originate? How did they conceptualise their deities and interpret their teachings differently? What was their policy for national independence? The article explores the socio-religious leaders, historical origin, organizational structure, deities, teaching and doctrines, patriotism, and conflicts of both NRMs in a comparative context. As such, this article argues that they both maintained patriotic characteristics, but that Cha’s Bocheongyo community with its ’60-executives’ system (60 bang) failed to manage their internal conflicts effectively. Meanwhile, Jo Cheol-Je of Mugeukdo had the charismatic leadership needed to maintain Mugeukdo, despite being seen as a pseudo-religion under the colonial pressure of Shintoism.

Keywords: Colonial Korea; new religion; leadership; Bocheongyo; Mugeukdo; Cha Gyeong-seok; Jo Cheol-Je


During the late-nineteenth century the Korean Peninsula was geopolitically chaotic.1 The external wave of imperialism impacted the Joseon Dynasty, along with Christianity’s modern and Western philosophy. Furthermore, there were domestic issues concerning corruption, conflict, and confusion that caused the lives of ordinary citizens to be plunged into insecurity and uncertainty. While the first Korean new religious movement, Donghak, stood against the depravity of local authorities and the inabilities of the central government, the second new religious movement was ushered in by Kang Il-sun (or Jo JeongsanKang Jeungsan: 1871–1909),2 who grasped the national risk during the transition period of modern Korea. Kang himself taught that the creative characteristics of the self-incarnated God would bring the solution to the problem of human reality, such as suffering and pain. The political and cultural prophecies of this historical figure, along with the performance of healings and miracles, provided an alternative hope and a positive expectation for Kang’s religious followers.

However, the abrupt death of Kang Il-sun, with the prophecy that he will return, disappointed his key disciples. The Jeungsan group split without the appointment of a second leader. By the time Kang died, Korea had also lost its sovereignty to Japan, which had won both the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) in East Asia. The colonial policy of imperial Japan was applied to the Korean Peninsula. Seok Won Song depicted this political transformation process through the perspective that Japan’s cultural imperialism of the colony of the Joseon dynasty was revealed in the social forms of “assimilation and dissimilation” (Song 2018, 308). Japan’s colonial law introduced new regulations about Shintoism and Japanese religio-cultural elements and demanded that the Korean religious landscape had to change.

When the Meiji reformers transformed the united archipelago government (1868–1912) inherited from the Tokugawa shogunate (1603–1867) into modern-day Japan, the divine ideology of Shintoism came superior to all other Japanese religions (Tipton 2016). Japan’s new criminal law (1907) emphasised the majestic nature of the emperor, the royal family, and of Shinto shrines. This Shinto-centred philosophy had been applied to the policy of Korea’s religious colonialisation. The cultural policy of Japanisation related to the 1915 announcement of the Pogyogyuchik (布敎規則, the regulations of mission). Shintoism, Buddhism, and Christianity were publicly recognised, while Confucianism was set as the source of the moral and ethical standards of society (Kim 2021, 333–372). The colonial government of Korea then established the Joseon Shrine (朝鮮神宮) in 1925 and, throughout the nation, enforced its worship service until 1945. While the Shinto Shrine was seen as a national memorial, the colonial police demarcated two categories of ’religions’ and ’pseudo religions.’ The former was protected while the latter was controlled under the monitoring system. The new native religions, such as Cheondogyo, Daejonggyo, Gaksedo, and Jeungsanism, unfortunately belonged to the latter group (Kim 2016, 371–378). In this regard, Kim Chul Soo maintained the origin of religious persecution was not irrelevant with regard to the narrative of the Japanese NRM, Oomoto-kyo in Japan, which had 1 million followers in the 1920s and the 1930s (Kim 2016, 379–383).3 The growth of Sect Shinto thus became the subject of government surveillance.

Among Korea’s native religions, classified by the Japanese imperial colonial administration as ’pseudo religions’, the groups of Cheondogyo and Daejonggyo did not split, but Jeungsanism was divided into five major sects, each with its own leadership. Such examples would be Goh Pan-Lye’s Daeheung-ri sect, Jo Cheol-Je (= Jo Jeongsan)’s Mugeukdo sect, Kang Sunim’s Jeungsan Hyangwon sect, Jeong Inpyo’s Maitreya Buddha sect and Bae Yongdeok’s Jeungsan Jinbeophoe (Kim 2020, 44–55). However, the Bocheongyo of Goh Pan-Lye’s Daeheung-ri sect and Jo Cheol-Je (= Jo Jeongsan)’s Mugeukdo sect were two of the most influential new religions in colonial Korea, despite Japan’s persecution.

Bocheongyo and Mugeukdo in Post-Jeungsan Movements

There were many historical events that occurred in the first two decades of the twentieth century. As the Joseon dynasty changed its national name to the Korean Empire in 1897, the imperial government adopted modern constitutions for domestic reforms of social policy (e.g., the abolition of slavery), its military forces, commerce, and industry. However, the promotion of independence was inadequate. The Protectorate Treaty, signed with Japan, was promulgated in 1905. Korea’s political decay continued as Emperor Gojong was forced to abdicate in 1907, despite the Uibyeong rebels (Righteous Army), which numbered 10,000 Korean troops, attempts to liberate Seoul. Korea’s former Resident-General, Itō Hirobumi, was then assassinated by an independence activist, An Thomas Jung-geun (1879–1910) in 1909. There were secret movements to assist Gojong enter into exile between 1915 and 1918. The failed exile attempt may have led to the death of the Korean Emperor at only 66 years of age, with rumours of poisoning on 21 January 1919. The March First movement was a nationwide, non-violent, and pro-liberation rally, which was initiated by the indignation of approximately 2 million Koreans.

In the meantime, the new religion of Jeungsanism, or the so-called ’Jeungsan movements’, was one of the most diverse NRMs in the history of Korea. Kang’s immediate disciples disassembled with feelings of futility and frustration, but the individual movements were launched by the second-generation leaders and gained momentum in the 1920s. Among them, the native Bocheongyo and Mugeukdo were most representative in terms of their reputation and size (Jang 2013, 177–181). Questions arise; for example, how, exactly, did they emerge? What were the secret elements of their success that one would find if one were to compare the two Jeungsan movements through the critical lens of leadership, historical origin, organisational structure, deities, teaching and doctrines, patriotism, and conflicts?

Table 1. A Socio-religious Comparison of Bocheongyo and Mugeukdo
Bocheongyo Mugeukdo
Leadership Cha Gyeong-seok Jo Cheol-Je
Historical Origin 1911 (1922) 1919 (1924)
Organisational Structure Bonso and 60-executives system Bonsojojik and Jibangjojik
Deity Okhwang Sangje (Great Jade Emperor) Guchoen Eungwon Nwehseong Bohwa Cheonjon Kangseong Sangje (Great Creative Thunderbolt-Wielding God of the Ninth Heaven)
Teaching and Doctrines Inui (仁義) Jin-gyeong (Perfected State)
Patriotism Indirectly (Finance; motives questioned) Directly (pre-Mugeukdo)
Conflicts Cha Gyeong-seok and Lee Sang-ho Jo Yeongnae and Park Han-Gyeong
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The leaders of Bocheongyo and Mugeukdo did not know each other as not all second generaton leaders were direct disciples of Kang Il-sun. Cha Gyeong-seok (=Cha Wolgok, 1880–1936), the founder of Bocheongyo, spent two years with his master Kang (1907–1909), while Jo Cheol-Je (1895–1958) of Mugeukdo had a spiritual encounter with Kang through a personal revelation in the vicinity of Daejeon train station. Ingyu Park, in A Study on Religious Movements Following Jeungsan during the Japanese Colonial Era: Focused on Cha Wolgok’s Bocheongyo and Jo Jeongsan’s Mugeukdo (Park I.G. 2019), explores the two native NRM leaders. Park divided the life of Cha into five eras: pre–1907 (young adult life, spent with Donghak during the peasant revolution), 1907–1909 (as Kang’s disciple), 1909–1922 (as Bocheongyo’s founder), 1922–1924 (a period of internal conflicts), and 1924–1936 (the colonial persecution and decline of Bocheongyo). The author also approached Mugeukdo’s leader, based on the Daesoon Jinrihoe’s canonical source of Progress of the Order (Gyoun) 2, Jeon-gyeong, despite having applied no comparative consideration.

Nevertheless, Cha and Jo were both born into families in which the father held strong leadership skills at either a regional or national level. The influence of their family philosophy was commonly demonstrated when they were ready to create new religious movements. In greater detail, Cha Gyeong-seok’s father, Cha Chigu, was a ’Jeopju (接主)’, a leader of 30 to 50 people during the Donghak peasant revolution (Ahn H.S. 2000, 58–69). The fifteen-year-old Gyeong-Seok witnessed first-hand the death of his father (1895) and then joined Yeonghakdang (英學黨), which was an extended group of the Donghak peasant revolution, in 1899. Cha supported Son Byong-hi, the third leader of Donghak, through his involvement in Iljinhoe (一進會); however, it eventually turned into a pro-Japan organization, causing him to withdraw. When Korea became a protectorate of Japan in 1905, Cha Gyeong-seok himself withdrew from the position as regional leader of the Jeonbuk group (Introvigne 2021, 5–13). When Cha was in political discord, he encountered Kang Il-sun and became his religious follower in 1907. Cha recommended Goh Pan-Lye, his older stepsister, to Kang. She thus became “Subu (首婦=Head Lady),” which was eventually interpreted as part of a Cheonjigongsa teaching (Virtuous Concordance of Yin and Yang: Eumyang-hapdeok). There were already many disciples who had been with Kang Jeungsan for many years. For example, Kim Hyeongnyeol met Kang during his Donghak campaign in 1894 and followed Kang Jeungsan as the senior disciple from 1902 onwards.4 However, Cha Gyeong-seok was one of the key six disciples who conducted the funeral of his master, who passed away after fasting while consuming alcohol in the summer.

Jo Cheol-Je, Mugeukdo’s founder, never encountered Kang Il-sun in person. The origin of Jo’s leadership is related to the influence of his father and other family members. Jo Yong gyu, Cheol-Je’s grandfather, was a government official at the Hongmungwan (弘文館), which managed the royal library, preserving the king’s writings. The official function included responding to the king’s personal requests as a classic institute for Confucian philosophy (Park I.G. 2019, 171–175). The family’s public behaviour was transmitted to his father, Jo Yeong-mo and two other uncles. Additionally, Jo Cheol-Je went into exile with his father to Northeast China to participate in anti-Japanese campaigns in 1909, the year Kang Jeungsan died (Cui 2016, 215–253). The followers of Mugeukdo and Daesoon Jinrihoe were taught that the young teenage boy had a special religious encounter with an incarnate God, Kang Il-sun (=Kang Jeungsan) and received his honorific name, “Jeongsan” (鼎山). Jo assisted his father’s independence campaign in Manchuria. While the leadership skills of Cha Gyeong-seok was developed in following Kang Il-sun, Jo of Mugeukdo opted for the long-term view by practicing meditation for nine years. The style he practiced was called, ’Sudo (修道),’ and he did this from the ages of 15 to 23 (1917) (Park I.G. 2019, 176–183). Jo then met Kang Il¬sun’s mother and younger sister (Yul, known as the Lady of Seondol) in 1919, a meeting which was seen as the fulfillment of Kang Il-sun’s prophecy, namely, that the coming of the one will be Kang’s successor. Jo was not one of Kang’s direct disciples, but the emergence of Mugeukdo was innovative under Jo Jeongsan’s charismatic leadership (Introvigne 2021, 5–13).

Historical Origin

The Korean new religions, Bocheongyo (“religion of the vault of heaven/firmament”) and Mugeukdo (“the Dao of Boundlessness”), appeared in the 1910s. However, neither movement was officially announced until after a certain number of years. What is more, they also promoted different socio-religious values of Jeungsanism (Jeungsan movements). Bocheongyo was at one time quite popular, along with Cheondogyo, on the Korean Peninsula; nonetheless, their fate was doomed upon the death of their founders. Because Mugeukdo was established several years after Bocheongyo, members were subjected to less colonial surveillance. Jo Cheol-Je was able to survive, given that he was 15 years younger than Cha. Mugeukdo was forcefully dispersed but Jo reorganised it after national independence.

To discuss this in greater detail, the initial Bocheongyo movement was established by Cha Gyeong-seok (=Cha Wolgok, 1880–1936) with Goh Pan-Lye (Cha’s cousin and Kang’s Subu (1880–1935), on Ibam Mountain in Jeongeup, Jeollabuk-do, Korea around 1911. The group then went through various personal collisions between Cha Gyeong¬seok and other disciples of Kang. The group was known either as Taeeulgyo (太乙敎) or as Humchigyo (吽哆敎) because they chanted the mystical sounds of Hum-chi¬hum-chi (吽哆吽哆 ). As the movement spread nationally, they began sending leaders to regional communities in 1917. The colonial authority started to monitor the native religious group, which was not considered an officially recognised religion. They were also thought to be a critical underground group, one that financially supported the independence campaign of Korea (Park I.G. 2019, 78–82). A decree was ordered that the leader of Bocheongyo be arrested in 1918. Many executive supporters were investigated and even died, either in prison or after release because of the aftermath of being tortured. Bocheongyo was in too delicate a state to be involved in the March First movement, which happened after the suspicious death of Korea’s Emperor Gojong in 1919. However, the grassroots movement was successful in terms of its number and influence, especially when they re-organised their internal leadership system (Ahn H.S. 2016, 431–476; Jeon K. 2019, 257–270; Park I.G. 2019, 84–87).

The native Korean religion experienced growth and development, despite colonial persecution, including arrests, fines, mistreatment, and imprisonment. The group, which was financially strong, eventually decided to unveil their organisation to the Japanese authorities in order to avoid suspicion. Afterwards, the name ’Bocheongyo’ was used from 1922 onwards. They tried to take over Sidaeilbo (時代日報), a national daily newspaper (Kim C.S. 2018, 93–125). Unfortunately, their failure resulted in not only a bad reputation, but also an internal division between Cha Gyeong-seok and Lee Sang-ho (1888–1967) in 1924. Cha was the leader of the Bocheon movement, comprised mainly of farmers, while Lee led the intellectual followers as the new faction. Together, they built the main temple, called Sibiljeon (十一殿), which was both attractive and popular in terms of its size and cost (Jang 2013, 177–181; Kim C.S. 2018, 93–125; Ahn H.S. 2001, 203–225). Nevertheless, a visit to the Japanese Emperor Taishō (1879–1926) in Japan and organising the community seminars of Sigukdaedongdan (時局大同團: a pro-Japanese campaign) resulted in national criticism from the Korean people. Additionally, Cha’s death and the ’Decree Dissolving Pseudo–Religions’ (類似宗敎解散令) further caused Bocheongyo’s decline in 1936.

Figure 1. ’Sibiljeon’, Bocheongyo Headquarters, public domain
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What about Mugeukdo? To date, there is no strong argument pertaining to Mugeukdo’s relationship with Bocheongyo, even though it is undeniable that Jo Cheol-Je would have known about Cha’s initial Jeungsan movement. When Jo received a special revelation in Manchuria, in China, as the result of a nine year’s meditation practice in 1917, he returned to Korea and received the hand written texts of Kang Jeungsan, including the incantations and Hyeonmu Scripture (玄武經) from his family (Kang’s mother, Kown; his sister, Yul, known as the Lady of Seondol, and his daughter, Kang Sunim) (Park I.G. 2019, 174–178). A private outreach was launched, and the initial group grew to 20,000–30,000 members in the early 1920s, while Cha was one of the main political targets of the colonial authority. The Mugeukdo movement was officially established around 1924–1926. It was then suspected by the media to be a second Bocheongyo, or a relation of Bocheongyo. The pro-Japanese campaign of Bocheongyo’s Sigukdaedongdan (時局大同團) also negatively affected the reputation of Jo’s Jeungsan group because of its similarity as they venerated the same deity. However, they grew continuously into the second biggest group after Bocheongyo. By 1928, their income (garnered by offerings and social work), according to Park, was more than that of Bocheongyo (Park I.G. 2019, 180–182).

Figure 2. Mugeukdo Headquarters © Daesoon Jinrihoe
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There was a division in Bocheongyo, but Mugeukdo coped without any major separation. Korean media outlets, such as The Chosun Ilbo and The Dong-A Ilbo (Daily News), often announced the membership numbers (approx. 60,000–70,000), while an internal source claimed as many as 100,000 people in 1929 (Park I.G. 2019, 180–182). There was also a socio-religious phenomenon, that is a horizontal move towards Mugeukdo, by the followers of Bocheongyo who had been disappointed by Cha’s pro-Japanese behaviour. The political work of Bocheongyo, such as establishing a national media outlet (Sidaeilbo) and promoting a specific colonial policy (時局大同團, Sigukdaedongdan), actually caused their collapse. On the other hand, Jo Cheol-Je (=Jo Jeongsan) launched vital social work, such as promoting follower’s welfare by means of projects like an irrigation association, deforestation, the mining industry, and land development projects (Jang 2013, 197–199). Establishing Jineopdan (眞業團, reclamation projects) represented Mugeukdo’s labour policy, which brought a positive perspective for developing Jo’s movement in the 1930s (Ko B.C. 2020, 53–61). They insisted that the purpose of various projects related to the members’ social sustainability through food, clothing, and education. These economic enterprises were not conducted in Seoul or in other major cities, yet still affected the sense of social exuberance regarding the Mugeukdo movement in Korea’s central regions. Nonetheless, the reinforcement of Peace Preservation Law (治安維持法, 1941) contributed to Mugeukdo’s having to close down because Japan, along with Germany and Italy, was already involved in World War II and there was a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, USA, at that time.

Organisational Structure

Korean society became aware of the social impact of the Jeungsan grassroots movements. The salient question, however, is, how did they grow so rapidly? Both Bocheongyo and Mugeukdo really began to prosper when they systematically reformed their organisational structures. Notably, the details of their leadership reflect a principle of private relationships rather than a public system of open recruitment. The followers of Jo Jeongsan initially gathered at Anmyeon Island. As the group developed, Jo created two different leadership streams: Bonsojojik (本所組織, headquarters organisation) and Jibangjojik (地方組織, regional organisation) (Lee J.N. 2019). Bonsojojik operated by means of two different executive leaders. Juseonwon (周旋員) was the movement’s main executive manager, while Juseonwonbo (周旋元補) provided executive assistance. As they also had three sub-managers, the role Challi (察理) held was that of being responsible for the administration. Sundong (巡動) visited and supervised regional groups. Jongni (從理) was also an executive board member but was sent to a regional origanisation (Jibangjojik) to cooperate with the local leader, Yeollak (連絡) to oversee management:

“Afterward, Doju made two positions: the Juseonwon (周旋元, Chief Secretary) and the Juseonwonbo (周旋元補, Assistant Secretary). He then had them assume the responsibility for transmitting a decree” (Progress of the Order 2: 26).

According to the official account of Mugeukdaedogyo gaehwang (無極大道敎槪況, The General Conditions of the Religion Mugeuk-do), written in 1925, Jibangjojik (地方組織, regional headquarters) was managed by the Yeollak (連絡) (Park S.K. 2022, 27–40). As already mentioned, Jongni (從理) was dispatched from the main headquarters (本所組織, Bonsojojik) to support the regional leader. Chayeollak (次聯絡) assisted Yeollak (連絡) in overseeing the regional organisation (between 2 to 250 people). As sub-leaders, they appointed Bubun (府分), who looked after 120 people. At the lowest leadership level, Podeok (布德) was in charge of religious outreach (Lee J.N. 2019). Thus, Jo Jeongsan led the Mugeukdo movement through the interrelated harmony of Bonsojojik (本所組織, main headquarters) with Jibangjojik (地方組織, regional headquarters). The Bonsojojik sub-leaders, Sundong (巡動) and Jongni (從理), had a good connection based on strong communication with Yeollak (連絡) who was in charge of Jibangjojik (地方組織, regional headquarters) (Park S.K. 2022, 41–61; Lee J.N. 2019).

Somewhat earlier than Mugeukdo, Bocheongyo formed their leadership structure in 1916. Cha Gyeong-seok (=Cha Wolgok) uniquely adopted the astronomical principle of feng shui, wherein the airt system corresponds to the space-time dimension of the cosmic order. The 24-executive system was created based on the 24 solar terms of the traditional East Asian lunisolar calendar.5 Cha appointed 24 leaders and sent them throughout the nation to conduct private outreach.6 For the effective operation of the organisation, especially under colonial observation, the 24-executives system (24 方主制) was reformed into the 60-executives system (60 方主制) (Kim C.S. 2021, 333–372). The grassroots evangelism of each disciple was effective, but it was also limited because it lacked official permission from the government. Cha’s organisation was formed based on the principles of Yeonwonje (淵源制) and Yeonbije (聯臂制). As for the Yeonwonje system, as indicated by Park Sangkyu, it was about the personal and permanent relationship between the transmitter and recipient of the teaching or between a master and a disciple. It was a common religious phenomenon among the Korean native NRMs, such as Cheondoism, Bocheonism, and Mugeukdo (Park S.G. 2022; Kwon 2021, 50–57). On the other hand, the Yeonbije system of Bocheongyo was a distinctive fellowship of colleagues who had the same master or senior leader. This sacred friendship of colleagues encouraged and supported each individual, and created community.

While Cha himself was titled as ’Tobang’ (土方), the Jungang Bonso (Central Headquarters) had two divisions. First, the Chongjeongwon (總正院) supported the four senior leaders, called Sajeongbangwi (四正方位), who supervised 60 Bangs (15 Bangs for each senior leader). Second, Chongnyeongwon (總領院) was the religion’s head administration office, which cooperated with regional administration offices (Jang 2013, 165–173). Each ’Bang’ (方, leader) of the executives’ system had their sub-representatives as Gyojeong (敎正), Gyoryeong (教領), Poju (胞主), and Unju (運主). The organisational structure was progressively developed in 1920 (Kim C.S. 2021, 343– 358). This organisational structure was predicted locally to have 557,760 leaders with approximately 6 million followers, even though the Japanese colonial authorities had presumed a different number (35,895 in 1928) (Jang 2013, 10–17). The organisation’s size exceeded Mugeukdo’s, but there were tensions among the sub-leaders, replete with misunderstanding and miscommunication. Therefore, a new system of Seonhwasa (宣化師) was introduced for those who had contributed excellently to the religious movement was devised. The total number of the Seonhwasa group was about 260,000 people.7


The post-Jeungsan grassroots movements revered Kang as the deity; but how was their interpretation of the God-Man distinctive in the context of East Asian traditional religions? The researcher, Jin Jung-Ae, argued that followers respected Kang Jeungsan as Daeseonsaeng (the grand master) until 1919. The appellation was then changed to Cheonsa (天師, Celestial Master). However, due to the personal religious experience of Cha Gyeong-seok (=Cha Wolgok), he officially led Bocheongyo to claim Kang as Okhwang Sangje (玉皇上帝, The Great Jade Emperor), based on the asserted narratives of Kang’s reconstruction work: “I am Okhwang Sangje” (Jin J.A. 2011, 167–171). The figure of Okhwang Sangje used to be preserved as the supreme deity in both China and Korea, exercising authority over longevity and human problems.

Figure 3. Painting of Samgwangyeong (The Three Sacred Lights: Sun, Moon, And Stars), public domain
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Bocheongyo taught the fundamental formation of the universe through the concept of Samgwangyeong (三光影, the three sacred lights), which is comprised of Ilgwangyeong (日光影, sun), Wolgwangyeong (月光影, moon), and Seonggwangyeong (星光影, stars) (Jin J.A. 2011, 172–181). For the followers, Ilgwangyeong (日光影, sun) is the Ninth Heaven. Wolgwangyeong indicates their deity, Okhwang Sangje Kang, while the left side’s Seonggwangyeong is the constellation of the Big Dipper or the Plough. Here, Okhwang Sangje is interpreted as the supreme God of the universe, who was once incarnated into a human being to reorder the earthly domain. Due to the organisation’s internal management, Cha altered the divine structure in line with the Confucian duality of yin and yang, namely that the universe is comprised of heaven and God (Jin J.A. 2011, 182–197). Heaven is regarded as a form of universe, while Sangje is the supreme superintendent being.

In contrast to Bocheongyo, the interpretation of Kang Jeungsan in Mugeukdo was effectively transmitted in the teaching of Daesoon Jinrihoe, for whom Jo Cheol-Je (= Jo Jeongsan) was the second successor. The object of the Mugeukdo movement was enshrined as ’Guchoen Eungwon Nwehseong Bohwa Cheonjon Kangseong Sangje’ (the Supreme God of the Ninth Heaven, Celestial Worthy of Universal Creation through His Thunderbolt and the Originator with Whom All Beings Resonate, 九天應元雷聲普化 天尊姜聖上帝). Like Bocheongyo, their deity was depicted as an absolute God, who himself had descended into the material realm as a human being, not as an immaterial entity. One reason for this was that the human domain is interconnected with the spirit world by means of either good or bad circumstances.

In the true meaning connoted by the whole name, the concept of Gucheon (九天, Ninth Heaven) is the highest heaven, and it is where their God orchestrates human affairs with all the other deities (Kim D.W. 2021, 169–182). Eungwon (應元, Response to the Supreme Being) denotes the relationship between Gucheon Sangje and all the other creatures of the universe, for no creature cannot exist independently. Here, Ko Nam-sik argued that Guchen Sangje’s character indicates Mugeukdo within the teaching of Daoism, especially if one sees the terms of ’Jisang Sinseon (Earthly Immortality)’ and ’Jisang Cheonkug (Earthly Paradise)’ (Ko N.S. 2004, 1–33). Nwehseong (雷聲, Lightning and Thunderbolt) implies the all-mighty power of harmony that Kang possesses. Bohwa (普化, Vast Becoming) relates to the fact that the universe is comprised of both intangible and tangible things, based on the influence of the Heavenly One (天尊). The concept of Cheonjon (天尊, Majesty of Heaven) is that their god is the holiest and greatest deity throughout the three realms of heaven, the earth, and all the people. Furthermore, all the deities respect Cheonjon’s authority. Kangseong Sangje (姜聖上帝, the Supreme Being Kang) is the honoured name of the omniscient and omnipotent supreme being. Thus, Kang is imagined as normally dwelling in the heavenly realm, but in special cases, he can make himself visible in time and space. The characteristics of Kang Jeungsan, for Mugeukdo, is more specific than for Bocheongyo. This, in a way, reflects the social perspective that, while Cha focused on the practical dimension of growth, the later founder, Jo, was more interested in establishing a theological foundation for the movement.

Teaching and Doctrines

How, then, do they promote their foundational teachings differently? Kang Jeungsan’s mystical activities and statements, made during 1901–1909, were interpreted as meaningful heavenly works among the first followers. The so-called ’Cheonjigongsa’ (天地公事, the Reordering Works of Heaven and Earth) became the sacred narratives for the doctrinal formation of both colonial Jeungsan movements. Among them, Cha Gyeong-seok created his unique doctrines in a human-centered, Confucian concept of Inui (仁義, benevolence and righteousness). The major teachings instructed that humans to build a righteous world through moral behaviours, such as loving and respecting others. The Bocheon group taught that the social implementation of Inui (仁義) was both the beginning and the end of humanity’s ethical standard, as the Hucheon era (後天, Post-World) of 50,000 years will come.

To this end, he had four practical creeds in order to prepare the ideal world of Daedongsegye (大同世界), which is a fair world where everybody is treated equally without socio-political differences (Kim D.W. 2021a, 207). Gyeongcheon (敬天) philosophy contains the teaching of respecting heaven, which is seen as the parent and humans as the children. These creeds encourage followers to keep the attitude of Myeongdeok (明德, the pure nature in the human heart), which can correct individuals towards having right behaviours before heaven and earth (Lim B.H. 2016, 59–84). Jeongnyun (正倫) connotes the meaning of rectification for the principles of the five moral disciplines in human relationships, such as the affection or relationship between a father and son (父子有親), between a sovereign and subject (君臣有義), between a husband and wife (夫婦有別), between adults and children (長幼有序), and among friends (朋友有信). The Aein (愛人) creed reminds adherents of the importance of other people, that just as one loves oneself he or she should love others as part of world peace (Lim B.H. 2016, 59–67). Bocheongyo, one of the initial Jeungsan movements, applied traditional Confucian teachings in the context of coexistence and equality, which attracted many locals. For such teachings, they (i.e., both the old and new sects) had a few sacred canons, including Jeungsan Cheonsa Gongsagi (甑山天師公事記, 1924, Records of the Holy Works of Celestial Master Jeungsan), Daesoon Jeongyeong (大巡典經1929, The Canonical Scripture of the Great Itineration), Gyojoyaksa (敎祖略史, 1935, A Brief History of the Patriarchs), Isajeonseo (二師全書, 1946, The Complete Book of the Two Masters), and Dadaozhinan (大道指南, 1952, [Narrative Life of Cha Wolgok]) (Lim B.H. 2016, 68–84).

On the other hand, Mugeukdo, a later Jeungsan grassroots movement, was established with more creative and systematic doctrines. The main teaching of Jo Cheol-Je, an educated intellectual, was that the devotee of the movement through guided training courses could experience the Jin-gyeong world (Earthly Paradise) on earth before their death (Kim D.W. 2021b, 127–151). For that, the founder set tenets (宗旨) in the movement’s four ideological mottos: ’Virtuous Concordance of Yin and Yang’ (陰陽合德, harmony between male and female), ’Harmonious Union between Divine Beings and Human Beings’ (神人造化), ’Resolution of Grievance for Mutual Beneficence’ (解寃相生, generous behaviour towards others) and ’Perfected Unification with Dao’ (道通眞境, self-cultivation training). Daesoon Jinrihoe carries on the legacy of Jo Cheol-Je’s teaching in that Sagangnyeong (四綱領, Four Cardinal Mottos) is the method of self-discipline. They believe that followers should practice Anshim (安心, Quieting the Mind) to restore one’s innate conscience. Anshin (安身, Quieting the Body) is to conduct the body in accordance with righteousness and propriety. The teaching of Gyeongcheon (敬天, Reverence for Heaven) is the same as Bocheongyo’s. When the above behaviours were internally established, Sudo (修道, Spiritual Cultivation) was performed in giving “their respect towards their god Sangje Kang without losing reverence and sincerity. They recite[d] spells with all their heart to achieve the goal of integration with the deities” (Kim D.W. 2021a, 222).

Additionally, Jo taught the importance of Samyoche (三要諦, the Three Essential Attitudes) to progress in the stages of spiritual cultivation (修養, Suyang). Seong (誠, Sincerity) is understood as the attitude of being in either a state of honesty towards him- or her-self or acting appropriately, without any concern for personal benefit. Gyeong (敬, Respectfulness) is the second attitude, which denotes a state of quiet mindfulness or an attitude of respect. It could be applied either to people or to their God, Kang, in worship. Shin (信, Faithfulness) is the third attitude, and it refers to a state of trustworthiness, of being faithful to what one is supposed to do; or, it can also be seen as trusting in some external person or practice (Kim D.W. 2021a, 222–225). The purpose of Jo Cheol-Je’s teachings is most fully demonstrated in the notion that such mental trainings would lead to the condition of Mujagi (無自欺, guarding against self-deception), in which the human spirit is transformed. Additionally, consciousness, the essence of the human mind, would be pure without greed. Jisang Sinseon Silhyeon (地上神仙實現) means that human beings can then be renewed to become earthly-immortals, keeping harmonious relations with others and interacting with divine beings. Ultimately, the world would transform into an earthly paradise (Jisang Cheonguk Geonseol, 地上天國建設), a world in which everyone would live by the principle of mutual beneficence (Kim D.W. 2021a, 226–228). Even under colonial persecution, Mugeukdo completed the doctrinal system with practical details of self-cultivation. In fact, it may even be one of the secret elements by which the followers were empowered to sustain the movement without any major divisions. In particular, the Samyoche of Seong, Gyeong and Shin would be key to trusting each other. Meanwhile, Jo Cheol-Je did not launch any specific canonical project, except ensured that the Hyeonmu-gyeong (玄武經, The Scripture of the Black Tortoise), spells, and talismans would be indirectly handed down by Kang’s family.


Under colonial rule, both Jeungsan movements were involved in the anti-Japanese campaign for independence. While Jo Jeongsan of Mugeukdo himself participated in the national independence movement, Cha Wolgok was more indirect, through financially supporting military protesters and the provisional government. Cha played a somewhat passive role in the anti-Japanese movement. His actions included preventing participation in the March 1st Movement and the anti-Japanese movement. It seems he followed the optimistic doctrine of Jeungsan that Japan would stay only temproarily and then retreat. (Jang 2013, 20) Nevertheless, many believe that his many anti-Japanese activities that appeared in newspaper articles and interrogations were fabricated to rally the people. This caused some to question the purity of his anti-Japanese actions. (Ahn H.S.2016, 470-471)

When Bocheongyo’s size became a concern to the colonial government, they began to communicate secretly with the overseas independent organisations (Ahn H.S. 2012, 147–181). For this, they used their cash and rice offerings. As a result, the Korean military agency of North Manchuria (Northeast China), Sinminbu (新民府), which was led by General Kim Chwa-jin, created a special operation unit. Jeonguibu (正義府), the temporary military Korean government, was another recipient of Bocheongyo’s support for their anti-colonial campaign in the South Manchuria religion (Ahn H.S. 2016, 431–476). Additionally, they sent a substantial independent fund (approximately 60 thousand) to the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea (大韓民國臨時政府) in Shanghai, China. When the Korean Provisional Government organised the Diplomatic Supporters’ Association for Pacific Conference (對太平洋會議外交後援會), Cha dispatched two representatives to a domestic independence preparation committee accordingly (Park S.S. 2018, 175–196).

As a cultural movement, they interested in helping institutions of higher education, including ’the Minrip University’and sending students to Japan to receive a modern education. Bocheongyo also organised classes that taught new knowledge and traditional Chinese classics for young men’s associations and girls’ night schools and libraries (Kim J.Y. 2016, 279–236). By providing a kindergarten, women were given the opportunity to be recruited into the organisation. For instance, there was the Joseon Mulsan Jangnyeo Undong (朝鮮物産奬勵運動, 1920s–1930s), a Korean national campaign to promote using domestic products rather than Japanese or other foreign goods (Kim M.Y. 2019, 5–41). Jae Young Kim maintained that Bocheongyo, in terms of gender equality, supported the social status discrimination campaign of Hyeongpyeongsa (衡平社, a grasssroots networking group for the social improvement of the vulgar commoners (Cheonmin, 賤民)) (Kim J.Y. 2009, 267–288). The publication of Bo Kwang (普光, a cultural magazine) and the establishment of the Bo Kwang Press, were part of the social enlightenment campaigns for the suppressed peoples of colonial Korea. The native religious organisation also published Saneopgye (産業界, a regular industrial magazine). Furthermore, Bocheongyo’s four leaders, including Im Gyeongho, participated in the organisation’s board, and three (Bae Honggil, Kim Jongcheol, and Kang Il) attended the 1923 council of the Korean representatives (國民代表會議) in Shanghai, China. Unfortunately, there was an incident in which the plan to deliver independent funding confidentially, without it being discovered by the colonial authority (Kim M.Y. 2019, 5–41), failed. However, Cha’s efforts regarding the independence campaign have been criticised because he, as noted earlier, operated the citizen seminar series of Sigukdaedongdan (時局大同團: a pro-Japanese campaign). Such socio-neutral characteristics of Cha Gyeong-seok are not irrelevant to the personal ambition of becoming the new king of Korea, otherwise called Cha Cheonja (車天子, Cha the son of heaven). In alignment with the rumour, he held a worship service for the heavenly god (告天祭) (Ahn H.S. 2012, 147–181; Ahn H.S, 2016, 431–476).

Unlike Cha, Jo himself had a strong patriotic spirit, which he inherited from his grandfather and father. His grandfather, a public servant of the Joseon Dynasty, committed suicide because of the 1905 Japan–Korea annexation treaty. His father participated in anti-Japanese campaigns in Northeast China. The independent activities of Jo Jeongsan as a young man were comprised of assisting his father and relatives (Cui, 2016, 215–232). Jo, according to Cao Đài and Gucheon Sangje: New Ethnical Grassroots Religions in Colonial Vietnam and Korea, personally involved in four major events of the anti-Japan campaign (Kim D.W. 2021c, 83–85). The first was the legal matter of a land controversy between the Korean diaspora and the local Chinese people (1910). He defended the legal rights of the Korean diaspora against the misunderstanding and misconduct of the local landowners. When his father’s colleagues were accused, Jo appealed their case before the President of the Republic of China in Peking (北京, 1912) (Kim D.W. 2021c, 83–85). Another important event was when the Japanese authorities accused his uncle (Seo Sangong), his father and Jo Jeongsan struck a compromise with the colonial authorities to secure a positive outcome (1915). The future leader of Mugeukdo also played a part as a secret deliverer of military funding to Shanghai, at a time when independent movement leaders were struggling with a lack of funds (1916) (Kim D.W. 2021c, 83–85).

Although there is lack of evidence regarding the Mugeukdo group’s patriotism, various official documents (pertaining to security law and punishments implemented on key followers) do substantiate the devastating setbacks faced by the independent movement results. For example, Jo Jeongsan was charged for violating the colonial security law in 1923 (Ko B.C, 2020, 39–71). The headquarters of the Mugeukdo group was forcefully investigated by police in 1925; it had fallen under suspicion for having helped Jo’s uncle. Some of the most prominent followers were sentenced to eight months of imprisonment and were arrested for having transgressed the security law in the late-1920 and early-1930s (Ko B.C. 2020, 52–53). Another example was that about 350 Mugeuk believers were escorted to the police station on Jeju Island in 1937 (Kwon 2021, 41–78). They had denied that the Japanese Emperor had legal power on the Korean Peninsula; they also refused to be conscripted to fight for for Japan.8 In summation, this section reflects the different patriotic figures between the two Jeungsan movements. For Bocheongyo’s leader, the patriotic spirit was a political tool, used to promote Cha himself as the son of heaven. As for Jo and his supporters, they consistently carried on the family legacy of anti-colonial behaviour (Ko B.C 2020, 39–71).


At this juncture, it would be profitable to ask: Were there any internal conflicts in either of the two Jeungsan movements? What were the problems, and what were the results? The leaders of Bocheongyo and Mugeukdo had a spiritually charismatic character, one that was effective in leading the people of each group. However, neither could ensure the smooth transition of leadership to the next generation, as they encountered various disputes. The sub-leadership challenged either the founder or the new second leader. In the case of Bocheongyo, when Cha launched a pro-Japan policy, there were leaders who opposed him. Among them, Lee Sang-ho, who was an intellectual, was the second person in charge (總領院長) after Cha (Park I.G. 2019). Lee managed the secular newspapers (時代日報社) on behalf of Bochengyo in Seoul. However, his mismanagement of the newspapers created a negative impact on the religious group, after which he was expelled by Cha. Lee Sang-ho, along with 15 other leaders, then attempted to launch a ’Bocheongyo innovation campaign’ between 1924 and 1928 (Park I.G. 2019, 100–104). They criticised the traditional policy of the Bocheongyo headquarters on the grounds of hereditary customs and superstitions; instead, they suggested that they should modernize to be relevant to contemporary society. Lee Sang-ho and his supporters, in particular, disagreed with the idea of using the Confucian teaching of the Five Elements (陰陽五行), telling the secret methods of becoming deities (祕訣), and Burok (符錄, incantations) as the practical methods of outreach (Park I.G. 2019, 105–108).

Some other issues included the closed operation pattern, the 60-exclusive organisational structure, the lack of promotion of the philosophy of one heart (一心), mutual beneficence (相生), healing (去病), Haewon (解冤, the resolution of grievance), and compelling people to give extra offerings (Lee K.Y. 2012, 149–181). The relationship between Cha of the Bocheongyo headquarters and Lee Sang-ho of the Seoul supporters even devolved into a psychic collision, which was an external cause of the beginning of its historical decline. Cha’s death, under the suspicion of colonial assassination, was another difficult moment in 1936. Here, there was another separation at the Bocheongyo headquarters. The internal conflict between the old sect and the new sects became externalised until 1940 and then they eventually divided. The old sect continued to worship Kang Jeungsan, while Cha Wolgok was idolised by the new group that had been formed by Cha’s son. Meanwhile, when Korea won its independence (1945), Lee Sang-ho started a new Jeungsan group, that would eventually be called, Jeungsangyo (甑山敎) – which is often confused with the same term that indicates all the sects following Kang Jeungsan. Cha Wolgok was traditional and conservative in Jeongeup (located in the middle of Korea), while Lee Sang-ho was scrupulous and innovative, especially within the spirit of modernity in Seoul, the capital of the Joseon Dynasty.

Figure 4. Jo’s Taegeukdo headquarters in Busan © Taegeukdo
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Although Cha personally experienced a leadership challenge, Jo did not struggle with any objections. Instead, the name of Mugeukdo was changed to Taegeukdo (太極道) and they relocated from Jeongeup to Busan (the nation’s second biggest city) after Korean independence in 1948. The founder systematically set up programmes to cultivate the mind, such as through meditation, for followers in 1957. The public cultivation programmes, for the members of the movement (修班, suban), were divided into the Sihak Gongbu (侍學工夫) and the Sibeop Gongbu (時法工夫), which are two different ways to chant the incantations (Kim D.W. 2021a, 245–247). The internal disagreement occurred when Jo Jeongsan passed away, but not between founder and the later leader, but between the one whom the founder appointed as Taegeukdo’s successor and other senior followers of the founder. Before his death, Jo announced that Park Han-Gyeong (朴漢慶, 1917–1996) would be his successor, but the opposite group (Jo Jeongsan’s elderly disciples) supported Jo’s son; notably, this was the same case as with Bocheongyo. The problem was the method of transiting leadership, either as a family inheritance or as a spiritual inheritance. In 1947, Park Han-Gyeong became one of Jo’s followers when he was 31 years, and was a member for ten years before he was appointed leader. The group supporting Jo Yeongnae (Jo’s son) was of the older sect, while Park Han-Gyeong (=Park Wudang: 1917–1996) and his followers were seen as the new sect of the late 1950s and the 1960s. The controversy ended when Park relocated and established a new Jeungsan movement, called ’Daesoon Jinrihoe’ in Seoul in 1969.

Taegeukdo maintained the traditional teachings of Jo’s Mugeukdo in Busan. Meanwhile, the adventurous leadership of Park Wudang can be demonstrated by the development and prosperity of Daesoon Jinrihoe in the 1970s and the 1980s (Kim D.W. 2021a, 239–242). They systematically promoted three basic works, those of propagation (布德), edification (敎化), and cultivation (修道). Their Educational Foundation built an institution of higher education and six high schools in South Korea. The Daesoon charity aid additionally supported the victims of natural disasters and helped people in need. DIVA (Daejin International Volunteers Association) was an example of providing overseas aid. What is more, the spirit of social welfare was applied to three areas of the public sphere: community, medicine, and welfare (Cha 2018). Thus, the era of Park Wudang could be compared to the colonial growth of Mugeukdo in the 1920s. The relocation of their headquarters from Seoul to Yeoju was another achievement of Park’s charismatic leadership. Unfortunately, they experienced internal strife when Park died in 1996, but Park’s social achievements were nonetheless seen as fulfilling the foundational teachings of his master Jo Jeongsan, including the ideologies of Injon (人尊, where human beings become the central figures of Hucheon [the Post-World] and of Jisangcheonguk (地上天國, earthly paradise).

Figure 5. Regular Chiseong (devout prayer) queues © Daesoon Jinrihoe
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Figure 6. Regular Chiseong (devout prayer) queues © Daesoon Jinrihoe
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Colonial Korea in the early twentieth century was in a state of massive socio-political transformation. The emergence of native NRMs was challenged by the religious persecution of the Shinto preferential policy. Most of the NRMs retained their anti-Japanese attitudes, which in turn attracted many locals who had lost hope in the traditional beliefs of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism, and in the folk religions. Yet, the size of most NRMs was not sufficient throughout the nation, except for a few who offered strong leadership. Among them, this article has analysed the post-Jeungsan movements of Bocheongyo and Mugeukdo, both based in Jeongup (in the middle of Korea) (Kim J.Y. 2022, 70–83). They originated from the same teachings of Kang Jeungsan. Their rapid growth, politically and religiously, threated the colonial authorities under suspicion of helping independent protesters.

However, the argument that they operated their own Jeungsan groups individually is proved to be valid in the unique perspective that Cha Gyeong-seok was one of Kang Jeungsan’s senior disciples. Although Jo Jeongsan had never seen his deity first-hand, he nonetheless received a special prophecy and revelation for establishing of Mugeukdo. In terms of popularity and membership, the Bocheongyo movement reached 6 million members with a substantial number of people in sub-leadership roles (550,000). However, Cha’s leadership was challenged by the involvement of pro-Japan campaigns, while Mugeukdo’s economic independence consistently supported Jo’s anti-colonial will. The interpretation of their god, Kang Jeungsan, was also distinctive to each of the different groups. For Cha, Kang was depicted as Jade Emperor in a Confucian, Chinese manner. Jo taught that his deity was the “Great Creative God and Lord of the Ninth Heaven,” which has an earlier precedent in the Chinese Daoist scripture known as the Scripture of the Jade Pivot (玉樞寶經). Jo’s version of this deity’s title only slightly augments the earlier Daoist usage. Nevertheless, the human-centred concept of Inui (仁義), which teaches that one can help create a righteous world by one’s moral behaviour of loving and respecting others, was the Bocheongyo movement’s core teaching. This was, indeed, quite similar to Jo’s earthly paradise doctrine. The potentiality of humanity has been generally promoted in both post-Jeungsan grassroots movements.

Another commonality had been demonstrated in their spirit of patriotism, even though each group’s motivations differed. The indirect support of the independent protesters was a political investment in Cha for becoming the new, ideal king of Korea. This could be reflected in his behaviour, namely that of his friendly relationship with the colonial authorities. Mugeukdo did not fall under such a suspicion from secular Koreans. Like the rest of the religions in colonial Korea, the era of the late-1930s and the 1940s was a moment in time in which both the Jeungsan grassroots movements had declined and were dismissed by the colonial authorities. At that time, Bocheongyo’s internal conflict occurred between the founder and the movement’s second-in¬command, Lee Sang-ho. In contrast, Jo Jeongsan did not have any divisions occurring during his leadership. The antagonism arose when Jo passed away, and was between Jo’s son (Jo Yeongnae) and Jo’s official successor (Park Han-Gyeong). This phenomenon is reminiscent of the internal division among Kang’s disciples when the master died. Many of them argued over the authentic legacy that Kang Jeungsan had given to them, disavowing others’ authenticity and religiosity. Thus, this article proves the key insight it had sought to offer; that the charismatic leadership styles of Jo Cheol-Je and Cha Gyeong-seok provided hope for colonised Korea, but the transition of sacred leadership onto the next generation was neither inspirational nor exemplary, as they struggled between the methods of family and spiritual inheritance.

Conflict of Interest

David Kim has been on the Editorial Board of JDTREA since July 2021 but had no role in the decision to publish this article. No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.


1 The revised Romanisation of the Korean language has been applied in this article unless otherwise indicated. Korean names have been written in the order of surname followed by given name, as is customary among Koreans.

2 In this article, the figure best known as Kang Jeungsan, his honorific name, will be refered to as Kang Il-sun, his common name. This will also be done for Jo Jeongsan who will be refered to as Jo Cheol-Je, Cha Wolgok who will refered to as Cha Gyeong-seok, and Park Wudang who will be refered to as Park Han-Gyeong.

3 The Japanese new religion, which was the only one that stood againt Japan’s war in East and Southeast Asia. As such, Oomoto encountered two political incidents. The behaviour of insufficent imperial loyalty and the violation of the Newspaper Law caused the first incident where Onisaburo Deguchi and his followers were arrested in 1921. The death of the Emperor Taisho positively affected amnesty for the leadership. The second Oomoto incident likewise occurred as the Japanese military government confiscated and destroyed their property including Oomoto’s spiritual centers in 1935. The relio¬political persecution caused the membership to shrink by 3,000 followers. 16 of them endured torture and other forms of suffering. The defendants were ultimately found not guilty of violating the ACT regarding the Maintenance of Public Order. This and other local precedents carried out by the Japanese government would afftect the pseudo religion policy of colonial Korea during nearly that same time period.

4 His daughter was also appointed as a “Subu” by Kang.

5 The rough dates (± 1 day) for the Solar Terms via the Gregorian Calendar are as follows: Sohan (January 6), Daehan (January 20), Ipchun (February 4), Woosoo (February 19), Gyeongchip (March 6), Chunbun (March 21), Cheongmyeong (April 5), Gokwu (April 20), Ip-ha (May 6), Soman (May 21), Mangjong (June 6), Haji (June 21), Soseo (July 7), Daeseo (July 23), Ipchu (August 8), Cheoseo (August 23), Baekro (September 8), Chubun (September 23), Hanro (October 8), Sanggang (October 23), Ipdong (November 7), Soseol (November 22), Daeseol (December 7), and Dongji (December 22).

6 Each of them had positions named after the Solar Terms: Sohan (小寒), Daehan (大寒), Ipchun (立春), Wusu (雨水), Gyeongchip (驚蟄), Chunbun (春分), Cheongngmyeong (淸明), Gokwu (穀雨), Ip¬ha (立夏), Soman (小滿), Mangjong (芒種), Haji (夏至), Soseo (小暑), Daeseo (大暑), Ipchu (立秋), Cheoseo (處暑), Baekro (白露), Chubun (秋分), Hanro (寒露), Sanggang (霜降), Ipdong (立冬), Soseol (小雪), Daeseol (大雪), and Dongji (冬至).

7 Unfortunately, Bocheongyo underwent an alternation of its leadership system many times afterward because of both colonial persecution and internal decomposition.



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