Daesoon Jinrihoe in Modern Korea: The Emergence, Transformation and Transmission of a New Religion

East Asian nations shared a similar environment of modernisation in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. None had been colonised under Western imperialism, but all of them commonly became subjected to new authorities, whether directly or indirectly. This change of the political landscape also challenged religious communities, as many new religious movements (NRMs) emerged to satisfy the spiritual needs of local people in overcoming the hardship of transition. This book presents the unique case of a native Korean NRM which successfully survived, transformed, and was transmitted even into contemporary society. Among Donghak (later called Cheondogyo), Daejonggyo, and Wonbulgyo, the history of Daesoon Jinrihoe derived from the Jeungsan movement is explored here in the context of functionalism, even though the perspectives of religious philosophy and personal experiences are also regarded for the receptive and syncretic relationship with other groups. The book offers significant insight that conservative nationalistic NRMs can still survive in a digital era, rather than disappear after the death of their founders.


David W. Kim, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Asian History at the College of General Education of Kookmin University, South Korea, and a Visiting Fellow at the School of History of the College of Arts and Social Sciences at the Australian National University, Canberra. He is the Editor for Bloomsbury Studies in East Asian Religion, and is the author of Colonial Transformation and Asian Religions in Modern History (2018), Religious Encounters in Transcultural Society: Collision, Alteration and Transmission (2017), Religious Transformation in Modern Asia: A Transnational Movement (2015) and Intercultural Transmission in the Medieval Mediterranean (2012).

“This volume explores the socio-religious impact of a successful Korean NRM within the context of East Asian religious history and culture. Like other East Asian NRMs, the Daesoon religious community offers its devotees new teachings drawn from the doctrines of Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism, as well as from Christianity and local shamanic practices. Kim is a gifted ethnographer. He deftly describes the most important doctrines of the religion with respect to the deity, cosmology, the Cheonggye Pagoda, Simudo, creeds, Daesoon objects, commandments and ethical rules. He also addresses rituals, sacred sites, educational work and social welfare projects. In a concluding chapter, Kim speculates how the Daesoon community differs from and is similar to other East Asian NRMs.”
Stephen D. Glazier
Yale University

“The nineteenth century in Korea was a time of social and religious change, as Christianity (Seohak or “Western learning”) gained followers, and Korean new religions that drew on local traditions (Donghak or “Eastern learning”) emerged as a reactive spiritual force from 1860. Daesoon Jinrihoe, a new religion founded by Kang Jeungsan (1871–1909) in the late 1960s, is the largest new religion in Korea. This innovative study by David W. Kim introduces this fascinating movement to a wider audience.”
Carole Cusack
University of Sydney

“In this finely crafted volume, David W. Kim provides us with a detailed view of a fascinating new religious movement of South Korea, Daesoon Jinrihoe. Born in the encounter with the West and modernity, this movement claims that a Korean, Kang Jeungsan, was an incarnation of the supreme deity. Kim has meticulously charted the beliefs, rituals and organisation of this movement in a book that should appeal widely to scholars of new religious movements.”
Olav Hammer
University of Southern Denmark

Buy This Book

ISBN: 1-5275-5448-1

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-5448-1

Release Date: 8th September 2020

Pages: 426

Price: £67.99

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