Any nation has a historic task to resolve. A great man clearly recognizes what the task is, shows the method of settling it, and displays to the people his courage and confidence that they can solve it. A national leader is one who exemplifies the national vision, and teaches a method of national dedication to it. Ahn Chang-Ho (Dosan by penname), whom this writer is going to explain, was one of Korea's most eminent national leaders. The historic task facing Korea at the time when Dosan lived was the recovery of her national sovereignty. The task called for the liberation of the Korean people from the aggression of Japanese imperialism, the establishment of a foundation for their national independence and prosperity. Ahn Chang-Ho devoted his life of 59 years and four months to the achievement of this historic task. Dosan was a patriotic revolutionary who devoted his whole life to the Korean independence movement, a great thinker who possessed the philosophy of national salvation, and a prominent educator who exerted his utmost to improve national education.
In 1876, Japan forced Korea to accept an unequal treaty, thereby taking the first step toward aggression against Korea. In 1910, Japan finally succeeded in occupying Korea by forceful means, annexing her as a colony. For the succeeding 36 years, Japan enforced colonial rule on Korea, perhaps without parallel elsewhere in severity. On August 15, 1945, Korea was liberated from political subjugation to Japan on account of the latter's defeat in World War II. Korean history during the period from 1876 to 1945 was dotted with tragedies as a Japanese colony and with gallant movements dedicated to the cause of national liberation from the status of a Japanese colony. It was in 1878 that Dosan was born, two years after Korea was forced into the unequal treaty. It was in 1938 that he died a martyr to patriotism. The agonies he had undergone while serving his prison term became critical, seven years before the liberation. His life coincided with the period when the Korean people were enslaved by Japan and when they struggled hard to regain their independence. In understanding the life, the man, and the thought of a person, it is decisively important to know the nature of the period in which he was born.
What Korean history commanded to achieve at the time Ahn Chang-Ho lived was the restoration of national independence. He could hear the historic command, and remained loyal to it until his last moment. He was a statesman and an educator, as well as a prominent thinker. He was both an educational thinker and a political thinker. He was a thinker who possessed the vision of national independence, a program of social reform, and the philosophy of character innovation. The three formed an inseparable relation in him. His system of thought, whose gist comprised his theories on the "four greatest spirits," character innovation, reform of racial characteristics, and accumulation of the "three greatest treasures of national capital," not only gave national vision to the Korean people at that time, but showed the future direction they must follow. His philosophy has universal validity applicable to any nation.
Having imprisoned him, the Japanese police asked him if he would give up his independence struggle. In a self-possessed manner, Dosan replied: "No, I cannot. When I eat, I eat for Korean independence. When I sleep, I sleep for Korean independence. This will not change as long as I live. As all the Korean people want their independence, Korean independence will become reality; as world opinion favors Korean independence, it will become reality; and as Heaven orders Korean independence, Korea will surely become independent.
"I don't want to see Japan perish. Rather I want to see Japan become a good nation. Infringing upon Korea, your neighbor will never prove profitable to you. Japan will profit by having 30 million Koreans as her friendly neighbors and not by annexing 30 million spiteful people into her nation. Therefore, to assert Korean independence is tantamount to desiring peace in East Asia and the well being of Japan."
It is easy to understand with the above statement how defiant Dosan's national spirit was, and how firm a posture and vision he had as a national leader. We shall first examine his manhood, then his life, and finally his thought.
First of all, Dosan was a man who lived up to sincerity. What he hated most was a lie and what he loved most was truth. His character was based on sincerity and his philosophy on truth. His ideal was to inculcate all with sincerity, so that the Korean people as a whole would grow into a sincere nation. At the Taesong Hakkyo (Taesong School) he established in Pyongyang to educate young boys and girls, the prime precept was "sincerity."
"Keep away from deceit even at the cost of your life."
"Don't tell a lie even for a joke. Repent bitterly if you lost sincerity even in a dream."
These maxims Dosan demanded his pupils to bear in mind. "Let all of us study sincerity. Let all of our people make a strenuous effort to become a sincere nation. This is the only means of saving our country. "Dosan believed this and put it into practice."
"Oh, you, the lie! You are my enemy as you have destroyed my country. I won't tell a lie in all my life as you are our sworn enemy who killed our lords."
"Let us pledge again and again that we will discard all the lies hidden beneath our skin and fill the gap with sincerity."
"State affairs are sacred, and it is not right to attend to sacred affairs by profane means." "Let each individual harbor sincerity and honesty in his heart."
Thus Dosan appealed to the whole nation. This was his conviction. With devotion to sincerity, he lived a life dedicated to truth.
Second, Dosan was a man of love. His desire for the nation was to see all the people study how to love-how to love each other, their country, their compatriots, and their jobs. He once wrote on the theme of "A Sentient Society and a Merciless Society." Defining Korean society as merciless, he appealed to his people to devote all their efforts to constructing a sentient society.
"Let all of us, men and women, study love and become a people who love each other.”
"Why is our society so cold and why does it lack warmth? We should create a society in which all smile with tenderness."
"Let us follow the principle of non-resistance in dealing with our compatriots, though it may sound feeble. If our compatriot beats us, let us be beaten. If he abuses us, let us be abused. Let us not pay evil with evil among ourselves, but let love guide us."
"If we love each other, we shall survive, if we fight each other, we shall perish."
"Is there anything happier than to have comrades whom one can trust entirely?"
His ardent desire for the nation was to convert a world of strife into a world of mutual love, a merciless society into a sentient society, and a society of distrust into a society of fidelity. Dosan emphasized chongui tonsu, which is one of pivotal points in his philosophy.
Chongui means mutual love and tonsu cultivation with depth, thus the phrase means cultivation of the spirit to love each other more firmly. He believed that the Korean people should cultivate the virtue of chongui tonsu so that they would create a harmonious and sentient society in their land. In his late years, he built a small retreat on Mount Taebo about 30 li away from Pyongyang, naming it Songtae (Pine Moss Mountain Villa). He also erected a gate at the entrance to his villa, planning to put a signboard on the gate with the letters-SMILE, meaning that all who entered the gate were asked to smile.
He believed that a smile movement should be launched throughout the country with the aid of posters to be put up in places which people frequented, and of statues and paintings showing a smiling face. How beautiful it is to receive others with a smiling countenance, he thought, for a clear smile symbolizes happiness and expresses harmony.
He earnestly wanted to see all the Korean people form the habit of smiling, a smile always lingering in their eyes and mouths. He liked the English word "smile" very much. A smile of an infant, a smile of an old man, a smile of a young man-all these attracted his great admiration. A new image of the nation Dosan envisioned was that all the people smiled at each other with warmth. In him we can find religious devotion to love and peace.
Third, Dosan was a serious man devoted to self-control and moral training. He was serious in thinking, speaking, and conduct. He hated "an indifferent attitude," and "do as one pleases" attitudes. "A gentleman behaves himself"; as taught in the Chinese classics. Dosan was a man who always behaved himself.
He constantly reflected on himself and submitted himself to self-training in morality, while advancing toward the summit of perfect personality. In receiving others, he always held himself upright, never letting himself lose his posture. He always sat straight when he took a seat. While walking, his gait was always upright. Even when he was alone, he behaved with prudence. He never deviated from the right path in both speech and deed. He never acted against etiquette. He observed modesty and order in whatever deed.
Dosan was firmly determined to become a great man himself first, and, through constant efforts and moral training, he could finally elevate himself to the height of a great personality whom all the people admire.
People are in the habit of lamenting the lack of great leaders in Korea, "Why is that we have no great men?" they used to ask. Dosan once made the reply:
"That we lack great men is ascribable to our lack of persons who are determined to become great men and make an effort to that end. Why are the people who lament for the lack of great men not making an effort to become great men themselves?"
"It is rather easy to crush a horde of cavalry, but it is difficult to correct one's bad habit. So we must make an effort for life," he taught.
As a result of his constant self-control and moral training and his effort to become a great man Dosan eventually became one of Korea's greatest leaders.
It was only a few years that he could spend with his wife because of his busy activity in the independence movement. He lived almost a bachelor's life. However, he left no scandal involving women. As clean as he was in pecuniary matters, so puritanically ascetic a life he did lead. His conscience did not permit him to love or enter an intimate relation with any woman other than his wife. He was a man who almost attained the state of a sage.
Dosan was also an example of a democratic leader. Though, he was a man of conviction, he was not a man of bigotry. He never forced others to accept his view.
"If I have one rightness others may have one rightness. If we refrain from hating others because they have a view different from ours, and from finding a vent for our intolerance, harmony will reign over our society.
"Since ancient times our people have had no tolerance to accept views different from theirs, but asserted only their view to be right, so that severe partisan strife ensued. It is as likely that I make a mistake as that others may do right. Having found that others had a view different from theirs our ancestors branded them as villains who violated the teachings of the sages; and, massacred all of their clansmen, unleashing purges of scholars and partisan feuding. This evil practice still persists today. Therefore, we must recognize and hold in high esteem the freedom of thought and the press. It should be the basic nature of a civilized people that they maintain friendly relations with and respect for others, even though they have different views."
"Both an angular stone and a round stone can find their usefulness. We should not try to find fault with others for the reason that they have a different character." In these sayings we can find Dosan's democratic way of thinking and personality.
He devoted his 60 years of life to national salvation. He was so heavily engrossed in the independence struggle that he could not manage to buy a skirt for his wife or a pencil for his children. Without considering his own happiness or the well being of his family, he busied himself with the independence movement. He had no defect for which we can ever blame him, either in his private or public life.
Being an example of a great leader, he had an excellent personality. He will remain the source of our everlasting admiration as the beacon torch of our people, and as a teacher of all.
Ahn Chang-ho was born the second son in a farming family on Torong Island along the downstream River Taedong on November 9, 1878. Dosan was his penname. The ordeals during his imprisonment caused home to die a martyr to the cause of national survival at the present Seoul National University hospital on March 10, 1938. He was 61.
The Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) broke out when he was 16 years of age. Witnessing a fight between Chinese and Japanese troops in Pyongyang, the boy asked the question: "Why are they fighting not elsewhere but in Korea?" He reached the conclusion:
"The alien forces are fighting on our soil at will because we are powerless. Korea is powerless and exists only in name! Now let us build up our strength. First of all we must strengthen ourselves."
First and foremost Dosan's philosophy demanded the reinforcement of national power. How can we build up our strength? This was his lifelong task. The conclusion he reached was to build up strength through character innovation and renovate our national character through unity and training. The Hungsadan was born as a child of this realization and was aimed at building up our true national might.
In order to strengthen his own ability, Dosan came to Seoul in 1894 at the age of 17 and entered Kuse Hakdang (Save the World School), where he learned the Christian doctrine and was converted to Christianity. Korea, being so powerless, started to become the target of political aggression and economic domination by world powers at that time. Japan, Russia, and China, vied with each other in seeking an opportunity to engulf Korea. Faced with the extreme national crisis, the Korean people were awakened to the need of self-realization and modernization, emphasizing the strengthening of their power. Taking the lead in the enlightenment movement was the Tongnip Hyophoe (Independence Association) led by So Chae-pil (Philip Jaison)
So, who returned home from the United States where he exiled himself after the failure of the Kapsin Political Upheaval in 1884, in which he had taken part with Kim Ok-kyun and Pak Yong-ho, founded the newspaper Tongnip Shinmmun (The Independent) in April 1896, and established the Tongnip Hyophoe in July the same year. Centering on the association, a modernization movement was launched with the aim of opposing the tributary attitude toward Ching China, promoting the cause of national autonomy, awakening the people, and reforming the domestic administration. As result, a public lecture meeting was held for the first time in our country and the word "freedom" came in vogue.
The establishment of the Independence Association was an historic event which heralded the advent of the modern age for the Korean people, and it was in 1897, the year after the association was created, that Dosan was admitted into its membership at the age of 20. The association was later expanded into Manmin Kongdonghoe (Association of Universal Fraternity). In 1897, Dosan the 20-year-old young man convened a meeting designed to organize a local chapter of the association in Pyongyang.
Addressing an audience of hundreds of ranking officials, including Pyongan Governor Cho Min-hui, at the Kwoejae-jong Pavilion in the city, the young man with close-cropped head spoke with great eloquence. That was his famous speech known as the Kwoejae-jong speech, which made him renowned in the whole of Pyongan Province. Listening to him, all were rejoiced firmly believing that a great leader had emerged.
Returning to his native village, he founded Chomjun Hakkyo (School of Gradual Progress). He devoted all his zeal land sincerity to education. His great endowment started to manifest itself at that time.
Though at the primary level, the school was the first private and coeducational institute established by a Korean. The name of the school, "Chomjin," has special meaning, for it signifies constant forward progress. Therefore, the school was the first expression of Dosan's motto: "Let us build up our national power."
Pledging that he would become an exemplary patriot, Dosan continued the study how to make new progress every day throughout his 60 years of life. Dosan, who steadily progressed toward the height of sincere personality, could finally bring himself up into a great national leader. His attitude of making steady progress in achieving anything must be regarded a sound and sure method of attaining success.
It was in 1902, when he turned 25 that Dosan arrived at San Francisco with his newly-wed wife Lee Hye Ryon (Helen Ahn). While earning his livelihood by working as a hired man with an American family, he entered an American institute to learn English. However, the misery Korean immigrants were suffering in the United States did not permit him to devote himself solely to study. He resolutely suspended his schooling in order to organize and train Korean immigrants. One day on a San Francisco street Dosan witnessed a scene where two Koreans were fighting, each grabbing the other's topknot, while a group of Americans watched them with amusement. Dosan instantly forced the two apart and asked why they were quarreling. He found out that the two, both ginseng retailers, each claimed that the other had violated their previously agreed sales area.
Witnessing the scene of two Koreans fighting each other was a turning point, and Dosan was resolved that he would exert his utmost to elevate Korean immigrants in the United States to the due level of civilized people. Pledging that he would do his best to improve the living of Koreans resident in America, Dosan started personal visits to their homes at the rate of 10 households a day, sweeping their gardens, cleaning their toilets, polishing the window panes, wiping the floor, hanging up curtains, and planting flowers in their gardens. In this manner, he taught them sanitation, orderliness, and beautification of their environments. Though they first mistook him for an insane man, they were finally deeply impressed by his sincerity and lofty ideals, and readily submitted themselves to his leadership.
So wonderful was his power of influence. Soon the Koreans formed the habit of shaving often, and changed their skirts and dresses frequently, so as not to show stains on the collars. They also learned to speak in a low voice, not to cause annoyance to others, and made an effort not to emit disgusting odors. In this way a complete change occurred in their life. The effort made by Dosan finally led them to a spiritual revolution in their daily life.
He especially emphasized to Korean immigrants in the United States the need to cultivate the virtue of following truth, cooperation, and law-abiding spirit. He established a fraternity society and a work camp for Koreans. By founding Tongnip Hyophoe and the Tongnip Shinmmun newspaper, he exerted himself in organizing and leading the Koreans. As a result, their life was improved and their economy became more prosperous day by day.
He was in the habit of motivating Koreans picking oranges in an American orchard:
"To pick even one orange with sincerity in an American orchard will make a contribution to our country."
Teaching that when one picks even an orange, one should attend to it as if it were his own business; Dosan inspired them greatly with earnest attitude of life. His image as he exerted his utmost to provide adequate leadership for Koreans in California reminds us of young Gandhi as he led the movement of non-violence and truth-finding for Indian settlers. It is not without reason that Dosan was called a Gandhi of Korea.
In 1906, when Dosan turned 29 years of age, he returned home after four years of stay in the United States to take part in a national salvation movement, after Japan won the war against Russia (1904-1905) and forced Korea to sign a protectorate treaty in 1905. His imposing appearance, his grandiloquence, his ardent personality, his resolute conviction, and his careful ability at organization fascinated people in Korea. He soon became the pivotal leader in national movements.
Four months before his fatherland was finally annexed by Japan in 1910. Dosan again left for the United States. During the three-year period before his second departure for America, he took a very active part in all sorts of movements, freely displaying his ability in all directions. While launching a national salvation movement by organizing Shinmin-hoe, a secret political association of the most celebrated patriotic leaders, he enlightened the people with his eloquent lectures, touring every nook and cranny of the county. He also founded Taesong Hakkyo in Pyongyang, organized Chongnyon Hagu-hoe (young Students Association), and set up the Taeguk Publishing Company and a ceramics company, thereby making an effort not only for education but for industrial development.
Although the period of his activity was relatively short, the seeds of patriotism and national spirit he had sown achieved continuous growth, coming into bloom in the form of March 1 movement ten years later. Especially Dosan emphasized guidance of the populace through education, mass enlightenment, and the development of national capital through expanding industries. Concrete expressions of the realization were Taesong School, the Young Students Association, and the ceramics company in Masan. The name Taesong most eloquently shows his characteristics. Taesong, great accomplishment, is suggestive of his ambition to build up the leading force for independence by producing the type of men who could achieve greatness by a method gradual progress.
Admiring his personality and thought, a large number of ambitious young men came to his school, where they received profound influence and teaching from him. Although Taesong School was ordered to close after only two years of existence, on account of the annexation, it has a significant historic importance as a hotbed of nationalism and spirit of independence, due to its teaching that a man should not tell a lie even at the cost of his life and its attempt to cultivate a sound and patriotic personality.
Dosan went into exile in the spring of 1910 when the nation was about to suffer the tragedy of deprivation of its sovereignty. He planned to establish a bastion of the independence struggle in Manchuria, but the plan met frustration on account of lack of funds. He arrived in the United States in 1911 by way of Siberia, Europe, and the Atlantic. Dosan planned to form Taehan Kungmin-hoe (Korean People's Association) in California in 1912, with branches in Hawaii, Siberia, and Manchuria, for the purpose of uniting Koreans abroad into a single organization so that they would be able to serve as the basis for future independence movements. However, provincial factionalism and the existing political situation prevented the plan from materialization. Be that as it may, the plan reflected a grand vision worthy of Dosan.
One of the most noteworthy achievements of Dosan was the creation of Hungsadan in 1913. An organization dedicated to the undertaking of ground-leveling work for independence movements, Hungsadan was a movement designed to help the nation build up its ability for independence, as well as a crystallization of Dosan's thought. It was a movement dedicated to the training of leaders for national independence. Dosan's guiding principle was to do all the work but return the merits to others. Although Hungsadan was his brain child, he did not brandish his name in its organization. He was never a demagogue who was greedy for honor and vanity.
That Hungsadan was in existence for more than 50 years in spite of Japanese suppression and persecution is truly a rare success in a land like Korea, which often witnesses sever partisan strife and disunity. This success can be attributed to Dosan's extraordinarily prudent planning when he laid out its basic ideology and organization principles.
Immediately after the outbreak of the March 1, 1919, independence movement in Korea, Dosan went to Shanghai. The diary recording his activity under the provisional Korean government in exile in Shanghai describes his impressive dedication to the cause of national affairs, while exerting his whole sincerity and zeal in order to bring success to the independence movement. He served the provisional government as director-general of internal affairs and deputy prime minister in succession. Resigning from the government position, he asserted the need for formation of a National Representative Assembly, but the plan was frustrated on account of ?Communist tactics.
In 1932 when Dosan was 55 years old, the incident involving patriot Yun Pong-gil broke out at Honggu Park in Shanghai. Dosan was arrested by Japanese police and imprisoned at Taejon, where he served four years. After his release from prison in 1935, he toured all parts of Korea, but interference by Japanese police deprived him of the freedom of speech. He confined himself to Songtae villa on Mount Taebo near his native village, after designing the retreat himself.
One month before the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Japanese police arrested all Korean nationalist leaders. Dosan was again imprisoned, together with his comrades who held membership in Suyang tongju-hgoe, a Korean branch of Hungsadan. He was released on bail on account of stomach and liver disorders. While receiving medical treatment at the present Seoul National University Hospital, he died. In 1938 the great national leader ended his 59 years and four months of life. His achievements as a patriot, a revolutionary, and a moralist will shine forever.
His Thoughts on Character and Statesmanship
One of the writings he bequeathed is "To My Dear Comrades." This is an open letter he sent to the comrades of Hungsadan in America, Mexico, and Hawaii on July 7, 1921. The letter contains the nucleus of his thought. Let us examine its gist. The letter, in short, pointed out that the Koreans had not yet built up enough strength for the recovery of their sovereignty, emphasized that they must develop such strength, and discussed what should be the sources of the strength and how they could build it up. The following is what Dosan actually said to his comrades. A gist of his nationalist thought, it reminds us of Fichte's "Rede an die deutsche Nation."
"What I earnestly want to ask you is this: 'Build up your strength. Build up your strength.'"
In other words, Dosan believed that the Korean people had the national task of restoring their independence, and that the task could be achieved only when they built up the strength to attain it.
"What we can trust is nothing but our own strength. Independence originally means to acquire one's own strength and rely on it. On the contrary, to trust others' strength and lie by relying on it constitutes enslavement. If you profess dedication t o the cause of our independence but, in fact, rely on the development of relations among other countries, it would become contradictory to our independence movement."
As a man cannot run more than his strength permits him, a race cannot attain development more than its ability permits. Greater projects require greater strength, and smaller ones smaller strength. With smaller strength one cannot achieve a great work. If his strength is greater, he can do greater work, and if it is smaller, he cannot but do smaller work. Only if one has strength, can one survive; if not, one perishes. This is the rigorous law of nature and history. There is no luck or miracles in this world. Strength determines all. Therefore, we must believe in our own strength and build it up. In this way, Dosan emphasized the philosophy of strength.
"Pears grow on a pear-tree, and wild pears on a wild pear-tree. The fruit of independence will grow on a race which is destined to enslavement. Success in small or large matters is a fruit of one's strength. It is the heavenly way and principle that if one has but small strength, one will make small success; if one has great strength, one can make great success: if one has no strength, one will die, and if one has strength, one will survive. No matter how repeatedly I think it over, I reach nothing but the conclusion that what we can rely on for our independence is but our own strength. Therefore, members of our Hungsadan are those from the start who believe in their own strength and lament our insufficient strength."
After emphasizing the necessity of strength and its expansion, the letter discussed what kind of strength we must build up. He first emphasized the strength of unity and moral strength. Then he mentioned the strength of knowledge, pecuniary strength, and the strength of personality. To explain him in another way, he stressed the capital of trust, the capital of knowledge, and pecuniary capital. Of savings he emphasized "alliance savings."
In order for an individual to make his living in society, he needs capital such as health, knowledge, and skill. In order for a race to establish an independent country, it needs various kinds of strength and capital.
"We all know what great strength we shall be able to display when we unite our pecuniary strength, our strength of knowledge, and our strength of solidarity, and when we further elevate the capacity of persons who consider themselves humanitarians and the strength of personality of those who belong to the middle and upper classes. Let us deposit in alliance our capital of knowledge by cultivating the ability of engaging in one profession after learning one or more aspects of knowledge and technique. Let each of our households have a deposit of at least 1,000 won, saving more than one-fifth of its income."
At present everybody emphasizes the need of forming national capital in order to accelerate modernization and economic growth of a developing country. One of Dosan's most salient features can be found in his emphasis, in addition to pecuniary capital, on the capital of fidelity and knowledge. This is also the reason why he is regarded as a forerunner in forming the ideology of modernization.
Dosan explained that factors conducive to expanding our national strength are the cultivation of sound personality and sacred unity of those who possess such personality. He observed that Korea confronted three bankruptcies at that time: The first economic bankruptcy, the second the bankruptcy of knowledge, and the third moral bankruptcy. What would be the means of saving the nation from these bankruptcies? Who would be able to accomplish the job? And what were the causes of the bankruptcies? According to Dosan, the nation was faced with the danger of these bankruptcies on account of its lack of sufficient strength.
Therefore, it was most important to reinforce national strength. What is national strength? According to him, national strength, which also steers the destiny of the nation, is the sum total of all individual's strength of virtue, knowledge, and physical might. Political and economic power and military might are found in organization, and a result of all individual's strength. Therefore, in order to build up the nation's basic ability, the only means to resort to is to nurture and unite individual strength.
National strength springs from individual strength and from it organization on a nationwide scale. For this reason, Dosan emphasized training in character building and unity above anything else.
The way to patriotism for each individual is to cultivate in him a sound personality. When each individual transforms himself into a sound personality, our nation as a whole will become stronger. Self-reform will bring about national reform, and character innovation will results in national innovation.
Herein originates Dosan's belief that "moral self-training equals independence." Before fighting, one has to strengthen one's fighting ability. He again explained:
"Since the national humiliation of 1910, we have always repeated the slogan 'Let's fight,' but we have neglected the task of building up our strength to fight. So we always shouted to fight without actually engaging in fighting."
"The only means of making our nation sound is to cultivate in ourselves a sound personality.
"Do you love you country? If so, you should first transform yourself into a sound personality. If you feel sympathy with the ailing populace, you should become a doctor. Unable to become a doctor, you should first cure your own ailment and become a healthy man."
"I call man a self-reforming animal."
"If you love Korea as I do, let us reform Korea in cooperation. We must reform her education and religion, her agriculture and industry, and her customs and conventions we must also reform her food, clothing, and housing, her cities and rural communities, her rivers and mountains."
He stressed national reform through individual self-reform and national revival through personal self-revival. He also asserted that moral self-training would bring about national independence, and that to achieve individual transformation into a sound personality was the means of loving one's country. Self-revival is a task assigned to each individual. The task cannot be entrusted to others. There is no other means for each individual than to reform himself all alone. This is the surest way and a shortcut to national reform, he taught.
Dosan observed that man is a self-reforming animal.
He taught: Reform yourself first, starting with the easiest thing, the nearest thing. Reform yourself gradually, without pause, and with sincerity. Reform yourselves in groups, for that gives you courage and encouragement. Through your self-reform, become a sound personality. This constituted his philosophy and principle of reform.
"To reform the Korean nation as a whole, we must start from individual reform. Individual reform requires each of us to reform himself, which we cannot ask others to fulfill.
"All great tasks can be achieved when one starts with smallest things. The most difficult tasks can be resolved when one starts with the easiest thing."
His national reform movement called for individual renovation and reform as a start. Hungsadan was an organization crated for just that purpose. As its name suggests, it was an organization aimed at producing gentlemen, namely, leaders for nationalist movements. The gentleman Dosan envisioned is a man who possesses sound personality, who can provide great leadership for society. He taught that a sound personality must contain three elements:
First is a sound moral character that can make for others to follow in thought, speech, and deed. A sound character must be based on virtue. Necessary for the cultivation of virtue, according to Dosan, are devotion to substantiality, practice, loyalty, and bravery, which we may call his four great qualities.
Second is acquisition of more than one professional skill or productive ability. This Dosan emphasized with particular stress. According to him, our first duty is to earn our livelihood by ourselves, without relying on our parents or relatives. This requires our own ability, namely, professional knowledge or productive skill. Our people, as Dosan observed, have regarded technicians and productive skill as base, while cherishing idling without work. No national prosperity and wealth can be expected from such evil customs of shunning labor. He stressed one skill to each and work to all. "Individuals can perform their duty to Heaven and mankind by working for their nation." This constitutes the nucleus of Dosan's view of life.
Third is a strong body as a prerequisite for a sound character. He emphasized "three grades of education"-moral education, physical education, and intellectual education. To him, moral education is more important than intellectual education. Intelligence without virtue is apt to become a source of vice, while intelligence without physical health may give rise to complaints.
He saw that national independence and prosperity could not be expected without reform of the national character and strengthening of the people's might. With sharp judgment, he analyzed the shortcomings of our national character. According to him, the first and foremost factor which prompted the decline of our nation was deceit, which he considered the source of all vices.
He urged that deceit be eliminated in our thought and deed. As long as we fail in this task, national prosperity and wealth cannot be attained. When we rid ourselves of lies, the day will come liberating us from the tragedy of decline. When we all become sincere, the day will come promising us a happy life.
"Let us base the great and sacred task we are going to achieve not on the foundation of void and deceit but on that of truth and justice."
This was Dosan's philosophy of enterprise. The second defect of our national character, according to him, was fondness for empty theory and futile argument, devoid of practice and actual deed. Dosan went to such an extreme as to assert that the 500-year history of the Yi dynasty was a history of empty theories. Doctrinarians and futile arguments are liable to give birth to slander, defamation, and intrigue. According to him, our mouths destroyed us. In argument, one is apt to blame others without committing himself to any responsibility. An evil habit is to reproach others while trying to dodge any responsibility.
Dosan also distinguishes the host's spirit and the guest's spirit. The former is readiness to take all responsibility, not only for what turns out good but for what turns out bad. The guest's spirit is an attitude of a bystander who is irresponsible, thinking that he has nothing to do with anything.
"I ask you, how many are there among Koreans who act as hosts? Those who have the sense of responsibility for their nation are hosts and those who do not feel any responsibility are guests. A true host has no criticism to make and no difficulty to encounter. He is only filled with thought of the responsibility for how he can best serve his society. The basic problem of any society lies in how many hosts it can have.
"We see many reproach others for their failure to join forces, for their forming factions, and for their internal strife. But if these very persons who make the reproach are united themselves, we can have a force of several millions."
Emphasizing a strong host's spirit and sense of responsibility, Dosan pointed out that the indifferent guest's spirit is a product of empty theory and futile argument. Distrust and disruption leading to factional strife and flunkeyism originate in deceit, doctrinarians and futile argument, and inertia. Realizing that deceit and futile argument were the most serious defects of our national character, Dosan was resolved to eliminate these evils in his own mind and life.
As mentioned above, Dosan upheld his "four greatest qualities" as a means of achieving individual reform-a prerequisite for national reform.
The first one is devotion to substantiality, to something that is true, concrete, fruitful, and devoid of falsehood. In other words, it meant to put truth into practice. Gandhi urged Satyagraha, grasp of truth. Dosan's devotion to substantiality is similar to Gandhi's teaching. Its aim was exertion for truth and self-training to become a sincere man.
The second called for practice with diligence. In other words, it urged actual practice by rejecting empty theories and futile argument. Dosan believed that one deed is more persuasive and effective than one hundred written articles. His philosophy was based on deed and practice, urging all the people to act. He himself showed an example of true patriotism, leadership, truth, and love through his own actions. That he pushed ahead with his plan to construct a utopian community throughout his life was an expression of his desire to show an example in this respect. He taught harmony between learning and practice.
The third was loyalty and righteousness. Man should always be righteous, trustworthy, and loyal. He should exert sincerity and maintain confidence from others once he has started an undertaking, even though he foresees it would bring him a drawback. Betrayal and mistrust were what Dosan hated most. He taught exertion for an enterprise and fidelity to people.
The fourth is bravery. Man must be courageous if he is ever to succeed in any undertaking. Hesitation and cowardice are apt to lead one to evil. If one can strictly distinguish right and wrong, and sides with righteousness, one always needs bravery.
Dosan believed that all should live up to the spirit of devotion to substantiality, practice with diligence, loyalty and fidelity, and bravery, and that this would lead one to patriotism and national prosperity. Together with character building, Dosan also urged training for unity. The Korean people lacked opportunities for a group life, they needed self-training for unity. They needed to learn how to unite themselves. Dosan was fond of using the phrase "sacred unity," by which he meant everlasting and inviolable unity. Comrades who share the same beliefs ideals must establish sacred unity. What is the basic purpose of cultivating a sound personality, learning the method of deepening mutual love in a gradual and steady process, and promoting firm unity? It is nothing but to lay the foundation for the nation's prosperity in the future. It aims at devoting and even sacrificing ourselves for the country and regaining our national sovereignty on the basis of nationwide solidarity. Dosan once used the phrase, "loyal men and women who live up to the ideal of devotion to substantiality and practice with diligence." The type of man Hungsadan aspired to produce was a leader who, being loyal and trustworthy, regards devotion to substantiality and practice as more precious than his own life itself.
The purport of Hungsadan was officially proclaimed as: "... to establish the foundation for our nation's future prosperity by uniting loyal men and women who are resolved to devote themselves to substantiality and practice with diligence, by helping them develop mutual love in a steady process of self-training, by providing them with moral education, physical education, and intellectual education so that they can cultivate sound personality in themselves through training themselves in alliance, and by creating a sacred organization."
This succinct but meaningful expression contains Dosan's most profound philosophy. The expression is also a crystallization of his tears, blood, and sweat. His 60 years of life which he lived with sincerity and zeal, as well as his personality and philosophy, are well expressed in this declaration.
To sum up, Dosan's unshakable conviction was: The nation's prosperity and happiness cannot be expected without individual moral reform and national reform. All should put into practice the ideal of devotion to substantiality in a steady process, materialize character innovation, learn the method of uniting themselves with mutual love, and become a people who are sincere, diligent, and brave. Dosan lived in order to put this ideal into practice. The great human image, the noble life, and the immortal achievements he left behind will remain glorious in our history as an everlasting example for our nation's character and statesmanship.