published on April 24, 2018
Don Baker, Seok Heo
The Concept of a “Great Transformation” in Korea’s New Religions
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Korea’s new religions is an expectation of kaebyŏk, a “Great Transformation” which will eliminate the many conflicts human beings are facing today and produce a world in human beings will find themselves instead in cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships with both their fellow human beings and the natural world. Kaebyŏk once referred to the creation of the world. The use of kaebyŏk in Korea to mean “re-creation” first appeared in the teachings of Ch’oe Cheu, the founder of Tonghak. It was reiterated by Kim Hang, the author of Correct Changes. Kang Ilsun, revered by the Chŭngsan family of religions, further elaborated on the reasons kaebyŏk is imminent and how we can hasten its arrival. Park Chungbin, the founder of Won Buddhism, then suggested that kaebyŏk of the material world was already happening and proposed steps we should take to ensure that we keep pace spiritually. These four Korean religious leaders stimulated an important shift in the Korean world-view which has influenced not only followers of Korea’s new religions but the spirituality of Koreans in general.