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천도교, a religion by any other name


Peasant armies are pretty popular in Asia and Korea is not an exception. The late 19th century saw a great deal of foreign expansionism into Asia, most notably in Korea. A similar process that was taking place with Leopold and the carving up of Africa was taking place in Asia. European powers (and the Japanese) were agreeing to areas of influence and Korea was prime real estate.

Native religions arose that were mixtures of Christianity, Buddhism, native and nationalisic beliefs, such as Chondogyo. These religions soon produced peasant armies. Peasant armies arose in the countryside to stave off this foreign expansionism as well as to protest the heavy taxes being levied on it by the nobility. That sounds like a familiar tune, a veritable recipe for revolt.

And revolt they did. A similar phenomena was taking place in China in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. However, that rebellion had implicit government support. The Peasant Armies were systematically anti-government, or at least anti-repressive government. However, they in keeping with Korean tradition were very nationalistic, very concerned about the maintenance of their Korean heritage. And decidedly xenophobic (in this case, for good reason).

All very fascinating. Once again, I link to wikipedia. Some of the writing is dubious and generally nonsensical, but overall it gives a wonderful overview that peasants faced in Korea.

We point to the 20th century as being a period of great upheaval, but the 19th century definitely laid the foundation for that change.

To think of the number of ideologies that arose out of that century is mind-boggling. Think of how the following have effected the twentieth century (and even the 21st).

1. Democracy (existed before, but spread in the 19th century, reaching Asia at precisely this time).
2. Communism
3. Evolution
4. Psychology

The list goes on and on, but try and imagine how these ideas alone threw the ancient world on its head.

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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