Public Lecture - New religion and non-violence resistance movement among Korean farmers under Japan's Occupation

The record of widespread mantra-meditation in North Jeolla Province in the 1920s shows the significance of the idea of cosmic change among former Tonghak (Eastern Learning) followers in the early part of twentieth-century Korea. The teachings propagated by the Guri Village meditation school were especially attractive to those Korean farmers in North Jeolla Province who suffered most from Japan’s exorbitant rice extraction program. Their home province was transformed into a key rice supply base for sustaining Japan’s export oriented economy since 1920. Importation of more rice from the overseas territories was expected to supplement Japan’s struggling primary sector and thus to lower prices of foodstuffs for solving the subsistence crisis of their underpaid urban workers. The con-sequence of the rice extraction program was increasing tenancy and impoverishment in the largest rice farming land, namely, Jeolla Province of Korea. Despite this aggravating standard of living, their female master advised her followers not to wage a violent anti-Japanese struggle, but rather wait until the United States was involved in the war against the Japanese Empire. Instead, she told his followers to meditate upon the Taeeu-lju mantra to gain enlightenment in order to be mentally prepared for a new mutually life-saving universe in the time of the upcoming cosmic change. One of her followers, Gyeongseok Cha, successfully enlarged the organization as the largest indigenous religion in the 1920s and was engaged in secret financial support for Korea’s exile government and overseas independence movement. The notion of cosmic change fortified the conviction among the peasants that Japan’s occupation and expansionism was doomed and Korea would eventually be liberated once the US would join the anti-Japanese allied forces. Their unique vision for eternal peace and beliefs in eventual victory can be an explanation as to why the once most revolutionary people of the same region appeared less re-sistant to Japan, but nevertheless faced relentless repression since the mid-1930s.

About the Speaker: Chang-hee Nam is Professor of the Department of Political Science, School of Social Sciences, and formerly Vice Dean of Graduate School of Inha University of the Republic of Korea. He spent a year as a researcher at the Military History Research Institute of Ministry of National Defense of Korea in 1993. Prior to joining Inha University in 2001, he was a research fellow at the Korea Insitute for Defense Analysis, KIDA (1994-2000), working on Korea-Japan relations and analyses of Japan’s security policies. He was also a visiting fellow at the National In-stitute for Defense Studies in Tokyo, Japan in 1999, and conducted re-search as a visiting fellow at Waseda University and Kyushu University in 2006. In 2013, he spent a half year at Kobe University working on Korea-Japan re! lations, and the rest of the year at the National Taiwan Universi-ty, studying regional security dynamics among Taiwan, Japan, China and the US. He graduated Yonsei University in 1987 and received his M.A. (1989) and Ph.D. (1992) in political science from the University of Kansas at Lawrence. He was formerly a member of the Korean National Security Council’s Policy Advisory Group (2002), and has served as a policy panel member of the Blue House’s Security Strategy Office, Premier Office as-sessment panel of ROK MOFA, and Advisor of ROK Ministry of Unifica-tion and Ministry of Education.


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