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Founded1949; 75 years ago (1949)
Preceded by
Student wingStudents Protection Corps [ko]
Youth wingKorean National Youth Association
Ilminism Supplies Association
MembershipLiberal Party
Political positionFar-right[13]
Party flag
Hand-written poster promoting the "Ilminism" (1949)

Ilminism (Korean일민주의; Hanja一民主義; RRIlminjuui), frequently translated as the One-People Principle,[14] One-People Doctrine,[6] or Unidemism, was the political ideology of South Korea under its first President, Syngman Rhee. The Ilminist principle has been likened by contemporary scholars to the Nazi ideal of the Herrenvolk (master race) and was part of an effort to consolidate a united and obedient citizenry around Rhee's strong central leadership through appeals to ultranationalism[6] and ethnic supremacy. In general, "Ilminists" often refers to pro-Syngman Rhee (groups).[15][16]


The concept had deep roots in disputes between different members of the Korean independence movement during Japanese rule. The debate was between so-called culturalists (문화주의론자), who argued that Korean backwardness required a strong and patriotic elite to guide the people into cultural civilization and enlightenment, that is, the Koreans needed to become a proper nation, versus the populists (민중투쟁론자), who maintained that the Koreans were already a sovereign nation and people from whom all legitimacy ultimately derived. Ilminism had been identified as being influenced by the culturalist stream of Korean thinking.[7]

The concept was developed primarily by German-educated Minister of Education Ahn Ho-sang,[6] who studied philosophy at the University of Jena in Germany during the late 1920s.[17] It was connected with the National Defense Student Corps (NDSC), established on 22 April 1949. The nationalist doctrine was influenced by the statist youth groups Ahn had witnessed both as a student in Germany back in the 1920s as well as during the Asia-Pacific War.[6] The doctrine was received unfavorably by various quarters when it first surfaced, but the onset of the Korean War in 1950 substantially increased its rapport with authorities.[6]

After 1952, Ilminism was no longer mentioned, and Syngman Rhee's purges of Ilminist affiliates led to the demise of Ilminism.


Ilminism starts from the assumption that the Korean people are a genetically, spiritually, and culturally homogeneous people from ancient times.

However, this national identity has been undermined by external forces and their collaborators, and capitalists and communists play such a role today. The Korean people must fight against this by restoring the unity they have maintained for many years.

The Ilminist Principle became the central ideology of Rhee's National Association and its successor, the Liberal Party, established in 1951.[18]

Ilminism was based around a four-point political program, including elimination of formal discrimination between the nobility and the masses, the economic equalization of rich and poor through land reform, social and political equality of the sexes, and an end to discrimination between North and South or the urban capital and the rural provinces.[18] An end to partisan politics was posited, in favor of a united people behind a de facto one-party state.[18]

Ilminism was effective in creating a strong anti-communist nationalism to stand in juxtaposition to the effective appeals to nationalism made through the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, headed by Kim Il Sung and the communist Workers' Party of Korea.[19]

Northward reunification[edit]

The Ilminists were belligerent anti-communists. Despite U.S. opposition, they insisted on "Northward reunification" (북진통일), in which South Korean troops marched North, overthrew the North Korean government on the Korean Peninsula, completely eliminated communist forces, and occupied all areas of the peninsula by force to build a non-communist unified-ROK.[13]

Association for the Propagation of Ilminism[edit]

The Association for the Propagation of Ilminism (Korean일민주의보급회; Hanja一民主義普及會) is a nationalist organization founded in September 1949. The organization is an organization aimed at promoting popularism centered on Rhee Syng-man, led by former members of the Korean National Youth Association led by Lee Bum-seok and Ahn Ho-sang. It criticized both capitalism and communism, but basically, the organization had a pro-American tendency, and due to the intensifying Cold War, anti-capitalism tendency was not more prominent than iniduring the KNYA period.[20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 木村幹, ed. (2007). 조선, 한국 의 내셔널리즘 과 소국 의식: 조공국 에서 국민 국가 로. 산처럼. p. 398. ISBN 9788990062239.
  2. ^ ""100% 대한민국", 가능하다! 파시즘이라면" ["100% of Korea" is possible! If that's fascism.]. Pressian (in Korean). 25 January 2021. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  3. ^ 서중석 (2005). 이 승만 의 정치 이데올로기. 역사비평사. ISBN 9788976968029.
  4. ^ "파시즘의 재현(1): 이승만의 일민주의(一民主義) 제창" [Reproducing fascism(1) :Rhee Syngman proposed a Ilminism]. Suncheon Square Shinmun (in Korean). 10 December 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  5. ^ Su-kyoung Hwang, ed. (2016). Korea's Grievous War. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Kim, Charles R. (2012). "Moral Imperatives: South Korean Studenthood and April 19 th". The Journal of Asian Studies. 71 (2): 399–422. doi:10.1017/S0021911812000095. ISSN 0021-9118. JSTOR 23263427. S2CID 154595966.
  7. ^ a b c Kern, Thomas (2009). "Cultural Performance and Political Regime Change". Sociological Theory. 27 (3): 291–316. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9558.2009.01349.x. ISSN 0735-2751. JSTOR 40376138. S2CID 53760985.
  8. ^ "한국에서 '화교 여성'으로 산다는 것" [Living as a "hwagyo woman" in Korea.]. OhmyNews (in Korean). 26 September 2005. Retrieved 12 December 2021. 6·25전쟁 이전에는 8만명이 넘는 화교가 있었지만 이승만정부 시절 차별적인 화교압박정책으로 인해 많은 화교들이 다른 국가로 이주해 갔다. [Before the Korean War, there were more than 80,000 hwagyo, but many hwagyo migrated to other countries due to discriminatory hwagyo pressure policies during the Rhee Syngman administration.]
  9. ^ "한국은 어떻게 화교를 혐오해왔나 '137년의 기록'" [How Korea has hated hwagyo. "Record of 137 Years".]. The Hankyoreh (in Korean). 26 October 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  10. ^ 최협, ed. (2004). 한국 의 소수자, 실태 와 전망 [Minority group in Korea. Status and prospects.]. 한울 아카데미. p. 281. ISBN 9788946033184.
  11. ^ 방기중, ed. (2006). 식민지 파시즘 의 유산 과 극복 의 과제 [The legacy of Colonial Fascism and the task of overcoming it.]. 지식 산업사. p. 97. ISBN 9788984942622.
  12. ^ [8][9][10][11]
  13. ^ a b 2. 이승만정권·자유당, 극우반공이데올로기 연구. National Institute of Korean History.
  14. ^ Cho, In Wan (2021). "Analyzing the Typology of Korean Citizens' Perspectives on the Admission and Settlement of Asylum Seekers and Refugees". Journal of Asian Sociology. 50 (2): 321–370. ISSN 2671-4574. JSTOR 27040269.
  15. ^ 손인수, ed. (1994). 한국교육운동사: 1950-yŏndae kyoyuk ŭi yŏksa insik. 지식 산업사. pp. 145–195.
  16. ^ 김수자, ed. (2005). 이 승만 의 집권 초기 권력 기반 연구. 景仁文化社. ISBN 9788949903323.
  17. ^ Vladimir Tikhonov and Pak Noja, "Social Darwinism as History and Reality: 'Competition' and 'The Weak' in Early Twentieth-Century Korea," Critical Asian Studies, vol. 48, no. 3 (2016).
  18. ^ a b c Hwang, Su-kyoung (2016). Korea's Grievous War. University of Pennsylvania Press, Incorporated. p. 93. ISBN 9780812248456.
  19. ^ Hwang, Su-kyoung (2016). Korea's Grievous War. University of Pennsylvania Press, Incorporated. p. 94. ISBN 9780812248456.
  20. ^ "일민주의(一民主義)". Encyclopedia of Korean Culture (in Korean). Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  21. ^ Hong Tai-young, eds. (2015). ‘Excessive Nation’ and ‘Indiscoverable Individual’: ‘One-people principle’ and particularity of Korean nationalism. KCI dissertation.

Further reading[edit]