Social equity and collective action : the social history of the Korean Paekjong under Japanese colonial rule

Kim, Joong-Seop

July 1989

Thesis or dissertation

© 1989 Joong-Seop Kim. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The main aim of this thesis is to reconstruct and analyse the Hyongpyongsa [Equity Society] and its activities in Korea under Japanese colonial rule. The work presents a historical and sociological account of the social life of the paekjong, the beneficiaries of the Society's activities, and of an assessment of the social dynamics of the period with particular reference to the Hyongpyong movement. Part One stresses the historical and social backgrounds of the paekjong who were discriminated against and stigmatised throughout the Choson period and even before. Their distinct occupations, mainly relating to slaughtering, butchering and wickerwork, left them segregated from the rest of the society. While their social conditions had improved in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, their stigmatised status continued well into the twentieth century and up to the 19205. Part One reviews the "constraining" and "enabling" factors in the eventual foundation of the Hyongpyongsa in 1923.

Part Two discusses the birth, development, dynamics, and decline of the Hyongpyong movement, which was initiated by "professional social movement activities" and wealthy paekjong, and then developed with the enthusiastic support of the ordinary paekjong. The initial aims of the movement bore on "human rights" and "community solidarity". Local branches of the Hyongpyongsa rapidly developed. Despite severe factionalism in the national leadership and hostile opposition in the early years of the movement, the Hyongpyongsa soon established "social movement sector" of itself at the heart of the the times and received considerable support from other social movement groups. This development, particularly in association with the support of various radical groups, brought the Society under the close surveillance of the Japanese authorities, whose interventions before and during World War II became a major factor in the decline of radical activists and the consequent re-emergence of a moderate leadership in the movement. In the end, the Hyongpyongsa changed its name to Taedongsa [Great Equality Society] and tended to represent the interests of its wealthy members who collaborated with the Japanese rather than the interests
of its poorer rank and file members.

Department of Sociology, The University of Hull
Pons, Valdo
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