Chondoist Chongu Party
|Chondoist Chongu Party|
|Revised Romanization||Joseon cheondogyocheong(-)udang|
The Chondoist Chongu (or Ch'ŏngu) Party (an approximate translation into English could be "Party of the Young Friends of the Heavenly Way") is a united front party in North Korea and is labeled as democratic by the government of the country. The party was founded on February 5, 1946, by a group of followers of the Chondogyo (or Ch'ŏndogyo) religion. The founder-leader of the party was Kim Tarhyŏn.
The Chondogyo movement was founded in response to the Christian missionary activities in Korea in the end of the nineteenth century. The Chondogyo movement became a hotbed of Korean nationalism, and Chondogyo farmers took active part in the Donghak Peasant Revolution in 1894 and the movement played an important role in the anti-Japanese struggle in 1919. The communist parties of the Soviet Union and Korea perceived Chondogyo as an ‘utopian peasant movement’.
By 1945 Chondogyo was the second largest religion in Northern Korea, with 1.5 million believers. The Chondoist Chongu Party assembled 98,000 members after a few months of existence, and was larger (in membership) than the Communist Party. In December 1946 it had 204,387 members.
On July 22, 1946, the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland was formed as a united front. The Chondoist Chongu Party was one of the four parties included in it. Thus the subordination of the party under the leadership of the Communist Party (later the Workers' Party of Korea) was formalized.
In the 1946–1947 elections to people's committees, village people's committees and myŏn people's committees about 5.3% of the 70,454 elected deputies belonged to the Chondoist Chongu Party. Kim Tarhyŏn became one of two deputy chairmen of the People's Assembly (the national parliament). During the first session of the People's Assembly a Chondoist Chongu Party deputy, Kim Yun'gŏl, held a critical speech against the non-compliance with laws passed by the people's committees during the land reform process. Kim Yun'gŏl was fiercely attacked, and he retracted his statement. It was however historic, as it was perhaps the only critical comment ever made in the North Korean parliament.
When DPRK was formally constituted in 1948, the Chondoist Chongu Party obtained 16.5% of the seats in the Supreme People's Assembly.
However, the situation for the party would soon turn difficult. Large sectors of the Soviet and North Korean communist leaderships did not trust the party, and saw it as a potential nest for counterrevolutionaries. The most troublesome issue was that the North Korean Chondogyo movement continued to have contacts with the leadership of the religious group in Seoul. In South Korea the Chondogyo leadership was anticommunist and supported the administration of President Syngman Rhee. In January 1948, the Chondogyo leadership based in Seoul made a decision that a massive anticommunist demonstration would be held on March 1 in Pyongyang. For obvious reasons, this put the Chondist Chongu Party in the North in a precarious situation. Kim Tarhyŏn refused to follow the orders from Seoul, but others in the party leadership wanted to go ahead with the plans. The result was a massive purge of party members throughout North Korea. In its aftermath, the anticommunist sections of the movement initiated an underground resistance movement and tried to launch guerrilla warfare.
Kim Tarhyŏn and the people around him reaffirmed their loyalty to the DPRK. In 1950 the Chondoist Chongu Party in the South (but not the religious movement) united with the Northern party under his leadership. During the Korean War the headquarters of the party was shifted to a town near the border with China. The party leadership actively supported the DPRK war efforts, but many party cadres migrated to South Korea during the war. Many sided with Seoul during the war. In the aftermath of the war, the idea of the united front was increasingly unpopular in the North Korean government circles and many wanted the non-communist parties banned. In the end the united front was maintained, but the possibility for the Chondoist Chongu Party to conduct political activity was severely curtailed.
In 1954 the government subsidies to the party were cancelled. By 1956 there were approximately 1,700–3,000 members left (out of 10,000–50,000 remaining Chondogyo believers). At the same time about 200 persons were full-time employees of the party. In order to finance the party, it ran an iron foundry and a printing house.
In September 1957 Kim Tarhyŏn became a minister without portfolio.
In 1958 the party was purged again. In November of that year, sources alleged that it had, together with the Democratic Party, conspired against the DPRK leadership. Kim Tarhyŏn and his closest associates were arrested. By February they had pleaded guilty, and on February 16, 1958 their parliamentary immunity was revoked. Most likely they were executed, but their exact fate is not known.
By this time the party had effectively ceased to function as an independent entity. No provincial organization of the party existed, just a formal central nucleus. Pak Sindŏk, previously the head of the Organizational Department of the party, took over the party leadership. The party still exists, but has been reduced to a letter-head. It conducts no activities except for those directed by the government and takes no independent positions on any political matters. The current chairperson of the party is Ryu Mi Yong.
Lankov, Andrei N., The Demise of Non-Communist Parties in North Korea (1945–1960), published in Journal of Cold War Studies 2001:1, p. 103-125.