The Movement to Exonerate the Religion's Founde
Following the execution of the founder and first supreme leader of Chondogyo, Great Master Su-un, Donghak followers of the time lived with great difficulty, owing to constant official suspicion and repression. Despite such circumstances, however, Master Haeweol continued on in the work of the Great Master, building church assemblies and strengthening church membership to such an extent that, by the thirtieth year of Podeok, the organization had spread throughout the country.
Master Haeweol staged large gatherings in such places as Gongju, Samnye, Gwanghwamun, and Boeun, to demand the exoneration of the Great Master, to overturn his unjust death sentence, and to have Donghak formally recognized by the government. The movement was carried out on a very large scale throughout the country.
The gatherings at this time were exceedingly peaceful and harmonious, and are thought to be the very first gatherings in Korean history representing the collective will of the people. In other words, these represent the first gatherings and demonstrations in Korean history in which the mass petitioning of the central government was carried out through the collective expression of the frustrated will of the people in a manner that was both peaceful and democratic.
However, around the time of the last gathering in Boeun one can see a transition in the movement. Demanding reform of the government's corrupt policies, the movement had taken on a more specifically anti-Japan and anti-West coloration in response to the perniciously extended reach of the Foreign Powers.
Therefore, rather than simply being a movement to exonerate the Great Master, founder and supreme leader of Donghak, the Movement to Exonerate the Donghak Founder was a people's movement of profound meaning, for it had gathered and mobilized the will of the people in demanding reform of the corrupt government. Moreover, it was a national movement of great significance as well, holding aloft the anti-Foreign Powers banner on behalf of all Koreans forced to endure the ever-increasing international encroachment in their country. It is these aspects that allow us to find a people? and national movement within the Movement to Exonerate the Donghak Founder.