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Building a Heaven on Earth

Building a Heaven on Earth: Religion, Activism, and Protest in Japanese Occupied Korea

Albert L. Park
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Building a Heaven on Earth
    Book Description:

    Why and how did Korean religious groups respond to growing rural poverty, social dislocation, and the corrosion of culture caused by forces of modernization under strict Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945)? Questions about religion's relationship and response to capitalism, industrialization, urbanization, and secularization lie at the heart of understanding the intersection between colonialism, religion, and modernity in Korea. Yet, getting answers to these questions has been a challenge because of narrow historical investigations that fail to study religious processes in relation to political, economic, social, and cultural developments. InBuilding a Heaven on Earth, Albert L. Park studies the progressive drives by religious groups to contest standard conceptions of modernity and forge a heavenly kingdom on the Korean peninsula to relieve people from fierce ruptures in their everyday lives. The results of his study will reconfigure the debates on colonial modernity, the origins of faith-based social activism in Korea, and the role of religion in a modern world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5327-3
    Subjects: History, Religion, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    When John H. Reisner, an expert on agriculture from Nanking University who conducted an extensive survey of the Korean agricultural economy in 1926, asked a “very respected and careful Korean thinker” what the present economic situation in colonial Korea was, the intellectual spoke of “economic difficulties” that had resulted from rupturing changes between the past and present:

    Before the coming of Japan, Korean society was divided into four principal groups, the scholar, the farmer, the artisan and the merchant. Life was lived simply and each group had definite sources of livelihood. In recent years the scholar has been displaced from...

  5. PART I: Religion, Revolt, and Reimagining a Modern Korea, 1860–1937

    • 1 Origins of Protestantism and Tonghak in Late Chosŏn Korea
      (pp. 23-55)

      Before being executed in 1864, Ch’oe Che-u, the founder of Tonghak, described the state of people’s affairs in Korea by declaring that “people’s minds were all confused and they did not know what to do.”¹ Many Koreans at that time attributed their “confused” conditions to the weakening of the Confucian political order. In large part, the breakdown of the Confucian order stemmed from the gradual decline of the Chosŏn state (1392–1910) during the nineteenth century, a period when the government showed signs of failing to live up to its role as the benevolent Confucian leader that provided for the...

    • 2 Economic and Social Change under Japanese Colonialism
      (pp. 56-77)

      This chapter examines the transformation of the Korean rural economy and society from 1910 to 1937 and its impact on the lives of peasants, who accounted for 80 percent of the Korean population. In so doing, it adds to the rich scholarship on Korean rural affairs and the commercialization of agriculture during the Chosŏn and colonial periods by including writings and observations on rural life by intellectuals and religious figures from the colonial period. Numerous studies of rural Korea have provided valuable statistical and quantitative data that show how rural life changed under colonialism, but these studies have left out...

    • 3 A Heavenly Kingdom on Earth: The Rise of Religious Social Ideology
      (pp. 78-114)

      Until and immediately after the March First Movement, many Koreans held religion in high regard because a small number of religious followers had played significant roles in promoting nationalist causes and speaking out against Japanese imperialism. Above all, numerous Protestant Christians and Ch’ŏndogyo believers became forceful advocates of building a new nation and protecting the country from foreign aggressors through the modernization of Korea based on the principles of civilization and enlightenment. Despite the crackdown on nationalist movements after Japan formally colonized Korea in 1910, many Protestant Christian and Ch’ŏndogyo believers secretly continued their nationalist endeavors. Their efforts to free...

  6. PART II: Building a Heaven on Earth, 1925–1937

    • 4 The Path to the Sacred: Korea as an Agrarian Paradise
      (pp. 117-149)

      After the 1919 March First Movement, peasants, agriculture, and the countryside figured prominently in nationalist discourse. In 1929, Sa Kong-pyo declared inLeninjuŭi(Leninism), a leading leftist journal, “If we do not boldly take up peasant problems in the revolution and fail to fight for the political and economic demands of peasants, there is no possibility for the revolution to advance.”¹ Sharing the leftist view on the urgency of solving the vast troubles besetting the agrarian economy and peasant life, bourgeois nationalists called for wide- ranging reforms to attack the destitution of peasants.² For leaders like An Chae-hong, overcoming the...

    • 5 Spiritualizing the National Body: Sacred Labor, Community, and the Danish Cooperative System
      (pp. 150-190)

      When the YMCA, the Presbyterian Church, and Ch’ŏndogyo started their respective rural movements, Korean peasants found themselves in a challenging situation in which many lacked the resources and power to meet the new demands and requirements of a powerful capitalist economy. Without the tools to negotiate the new conditions, a growing number of peasants had no choice but to sell their labor and become wageworkers, especially when the economy suff ered many setbacks in the 1930s because of the Great Depression.¹ Compared with the 1920s, when certain peasants were able to strengthen their holdings in relation to landowners and take...

    • 6 Constructing National Consciousness: Educating and Disciplining Peasants’ Minds
      (pp. 191-219)

      Beginning in 1910, the Japa nese colonial government had already introduced a modern educational system in Korea that operated with the goals of extinguishing the Korean national identity and molding Koreans into loyal citizens of the Japa nese empire. Sekiya Teizaburo, the education director in the colonial government, declared that “the fundamental principle of Korean education, stated in a word, is to bring up the Koreans as citizens or subjects of the Japa nese empire. . . . The Korean education aims to foster a loyal and patriotic spirit in the minds of the Korean pupils. The laws and instructions...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 220-228)

    Lasting a little over a decade (1925–1937), the YMCA, Presbyterian, and Ch’nŏdogyo rural movements were collectively one of the largest rural movements in colonial Korea that furnished Koreans with an alternative vision of modernity that featured religion, agriculture, and pastoral living. As this book has shown, these three movements carried out reconstruction campaigns with the purpose of building a heavenly kingdom on earth where Korean peasants could find relief from the ideological and material upheavals caused by modernization. The movements pursued a path of reform centered on the reclamation of Korea’s agrarian heritage. That is, by incorporating contemporary ideas,...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 229-280)
    (pp. 281-296)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 297-307)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 308-309)