What I’ve discovered
Son Byong Hi was born in 1861, he learned of the Dong-Hak religion around 1884.
The Dong-Hak (also Tonghak) religion was also known as Eastern Culture and became a rebellion against
Western influence in Korea and specifically against Roman Catholicism and the Japanese invaders.
The Korean King called on China to provide aid in beating the rebellion, unfortunately when China moved
her troops into Korea in 1894, she broke a treaty agreement made with Japan in 1885, foreseeing this
Japan also had troops ready to send to Korea. Thus the Sino-Japanese War began in July 1894 and was
quickly won by the Japanese, China then recognised Korea as a sovereign independent nation.
Whilst in this position of power over the Koreans, the Japanese forced a series of reforms on the
Son Byong Hi became a student of Ch’oe Si-Hyung the Second Great Leader of the Don Hak.
As a commander of the Southern Dong-Hak rebel army in 1894, Son Byong Hi was involved in the
Dong-Hak peasant rebellion.
The joint Japanese and Korean forces eventually overpowered the rebels, though both Son Byong Hi and
Ch’oe Si-Hyung escaped capture and fled.
Ch’oe Si-Hyung knew that he would inevitably be captured and he therefore pronounced Son Byong Hi
as his successor and Third Great Leader of the Dong-Hak. Ch’oe Si-Hyung was captured and executed in
After this Son Byong Hi sought political asylum in Japan, where he advocated Korean non-violent
In Korea the pro-Japanese government fell and was replaced by a pro-Russian cabinet.
In 1896 King Kojong was forced to flee to Russia and a Korean delegate to the coronation of Tzar
Nicholas II concluded secret agreements with Russia.
In 1904 after Russia rejected the Japanese ultimatum for them to withdraw their troops from
Manchuria, Japan declared war on Russia, more Japanese troops occupied Korea and Manchuria.
The Portsmouth Treaty of 1905 ended the Russo-Japanese war, but let the Japanese establish a
protectorate of Korea, with the support of both USA and Great Britain.
In 1905 Son Byong Hi changed the name of Dong-Hak to Chondo Kyo, in order to identify it as a modern
religious movement, and to detach it from the Dong-Hak rebellion.
The movement secretly spread throughout Korea in opposition to the Korea occupation by Japan.
On March 1st 1919, The Korean Declaration of Independence was read aloud in Pagoda Park, Seoul.
Of the thirty-three signatories, 15 were members of Chondo Kyo movement.
The declaration called for non-violent protests and many Koreans marched for independence.
Son Byong Hi was the first of the 33 signatories to be imprisoned.
The Japanese reaction to the declaration was bloody, 7,500 Koreans were killed, and some 16,000
wounded; around 50,000 were imprisoned.
Son Byong Hi became ill in prison and was released due to his illness, only to die at home in 1922, having
devoted his life to defending the oppressed Korean population.
In his encyclopaedia General Choi told us:
Eui-Am is the pseudonym of Son Byong Hi, leader of the Korean independence movement
on March 1st 1919. The 45 movements of the pattern refer to his age when he changed
the name of Dong Hak (Oriental Culture) to Chondo Kyo (Heavenly Way Religion) in
1905. The diagram (I) represents his indomitable spirit, displayed while dedicating
himself to the prosperity of his nation.