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Background

A series of young kings

were ascended to the throne over around 60 years from King Sunjo, Hyeonjong, and Cheoljong in the 19th century, creating abnormal political practices in which important decisions were made by the maternal relations of the king(mainly the Kim family

A series of young kings

originated from Andong and the Cho family originated from Pyeongyang).
This situation further resulted in the breach of official discipline at the center of political power.
This situation further gave birth to a lot of corrupt officials, which disturbed the general society and disrupted three basic systems of the dynasty.
Here the three basic systems refer to the land tax, military tax (which men aged from 16 to 60 are obliged to pay instead of physically serving in the army), and rice loan (a system that allows people to borrow rice in spring when rice is very rare and valuable and pay back in the harvest season).
These three basic systems were turned into the means for government officials to exploit the people, destroying the rural communities.
In addition, the expansion and development of the landlord system and the development of agricultural skills since the late Chosun era changed the rural society.
The total sum principle in gathering tax in the area unit of gun, or hyeon made peasants to bear all the burdens shifted from the local noblemen.
This created a number of farmers who left the hometown and became beggar groups or died of hunger.

Dissatisfaction of farmers increased more and more and they started to wake up to the fact that it is they that can change and solve the problems of the feudal system.
By the end of 19 century, all the problems that Lee dynasty had started to break out and the western invasion armed with capitalism became more evident.
So it was a transition period for the Korean people to find a path to a new society by breaking the old rule of the feudal system.
In particular, since 1876 when the port was opened to foreign trade, Joseon became an arena of competition between China and Japan. Following the military uprising in 1882 and Gapsin Political Revolution in 1884, China secured the hegemony on the Korean Peninsular.

Meanwhile, Japan focused on the economic exploitation more to compensate for its weakened political position, making Joseon a food supplier to Japan.
As the export of rice to Japan increased due to the bait of cheap necessities, the rice price soared, making Joseon people suffer from the high prices of commodities and food shortage.
In this situation, the government even raised tax to exploit people and trade-off practices of official positions were wide spread.
Those who bought the official positions got engaged in all kinds of wrongdoing and corruption in order to get back what they had paid to buy the position and to accumulate more money, which generated more diversified methods of exploitation.
The dissatisfaction that farmers had was gradually developed into the resistance spirit against the capitalistic invasion as well as the exploitation by the ruling class in the feudal system.
In the midst of all the problems facing the whole country, farmers' uprising was launched in over 70 villages on the southern part of Korea since 1862, which became a nationwide phenomenon around 1892.

The basis and foundation of the farmers' uprising was Donghak.
Donghak is people's religion that Coe JeU (gentleman from a collapsed gentry class family in Gyeongju area) created against the western religion (catholic) in 1860 when the capitalistic powers gradually started to invade Korea (then Joseon). The core philosophy of Donghak can be summarized in the simple sentence of "Humans are the sky".
The feudal governing class at that time considered the people as a mere object for exploitation and Donghak presented an ideology of equality against this.
From the governing class' point of view, it was a subversive ideology against the Confucian ideas.
But it spread widely across country over a very short period of time since it was an idea that ordinary people had wanted. But there were some limits found in the Donghak philosophy. In other words, it lacked the practical theory to realize the ideas.
But this limit was overcome by the people who live by the principle in their every day life.

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