How does a tiny religious group become one of the largest religions in Asia? To put the question in religious terms, how is it that structure and human effort combine to manifest the divine will? This account will outline how two singular and powerful forces of institutional architecture, hierarchy and branch, combine to propel the success of the Korean religion Daesoon Jinrihoe. On their own they explain little. Yet when joined by a third force, the lineage ideal, an institutional energy is created that weaves through all halls and alleys to fire up group spirit. This study will describe how these structural elements come together.1)
The Korean religious stream of Jeungsansim (甑山主義) revolves around the turn of the century figure of Kang Jeungsan (姜甑山 강증산, 1871~1909). Kang was a little-known figure outside religious circles. But his influence on the Korean religious scene has been immense. Although he did not leave writings of his own his small group of followers carried his teachings to all corners of the Korean peninsula. This message was one of cultivation and realignment. Through alignment of the individual with universal energies, he offered a way for individual and national salvation. His presence has echoed down the years, resulting in major institutional formations in the Korean firmament. One of these institutions is Daesoon Jinrihoe (大巡眞理會 대순진리회), one of the largest new religions in Korea.2)
This study will examine Daesoon Jinrihoe organizational structure, with a particular focus on one underlying mechanism, the lineage principle. The paper starts by briefly discussing the major phases of Daesoon Jinrihoe’s growth in section one. It then turns the spotlight on the sophisticated hierarchical organization that has developed in the Daesoon Jinrihoe headquarters. The various headquarters organizational units will be described in some detail in sections two and three. This central organization works hand-in-glove with the wide-ranging branch structure to realize all aspects of the core mission, from recruitment to education to ritual performance. Section four will focus on the branches, the bangmyeons.
It is important to clarify from the start the concept of lineage within Daesoon Jinrihoe. A key concept in Daesoon Jinrihoe thought is the Fountainhead 淵源 (yeonwon 연원). The Fountainhead refers to the three founders. Each one performed a unique role in receiving and establishing the Daesoon Truth. Kang Jeungsan, the Sangje (Supreme God), reordered the universe. Kang Jeungsan then revealed the Daesoon Truth to Jo Jeongsan (趙鼎山 조정산, 1895-1958), the Doju (Lord of Dao). Jo Jeongsan established a religious organization and clarified a method of cultivation. He then transferred the ultimate religious authority to Park Wudang (朴牛堂 박우당, 1917-1996), the Dojeon (Holy Leader). Park Wudang vastly expanded Daesoon Jinrihoe’s institutional presence and guided followers on the path. In this way the succession of the Orthodox Religious Authority created a “continuous heavenly endowment” from Sangje. This succession is known as the Holy Lineage 宗統 (jongtong 종통). The term lineage, when used in Daesoon Jinrihoe thought and discourse, generally refers to the jongtong.
The jongtong is a form of religious lineage. This paper proposes that another aspect of lineages, the lineage function, is also active in Daesoon Jinrihoe. Taken from the anthropological literature, the lineage function is a way of discussing common descent between organizational units. This concept is explored in section five. The analytical concept of lineage function should not be confused with Daesoon Jinrihoe’s indigenous concept of jongtong.
This study is based on a combination of formal field visits, discussions and interviews with Daesoon Jinrihoe headquarters staff, and secondary sources when available. Methodologies used include interviews and site visits. Due to space considerations, questions of historical development cannot be addressed here. Instead, the methodological focus is on organizational structure, defined in management theory as a system that determines how activities are structured to accomplish organization goals; in Sablynski’s words, “how job tasks are formally grouped, divided, and coordinated.”3)
I. The Daesoon Jinrihoe Headquarters 本部 Organization
Daesoon Jinrihoe has seen undeniable rapid growth since its establishment. According to the group’s calculations, current active membership is nearly one million:
Daesoon Jinrihoe is a large organization existing in a complex environment. The organization has two sides, the headquarters 本部 (bonbu 본부) and the bangmyeon(方面 방면) or branches. This section will describe the major institutional units. It will then turn to headquarters structure in detail, a necessary step in order to understand the context for the operation of the lineage principle.
Daesoon Jinrihoe organizational structures are conventionally divided into five different types of institutions: temple complex, the University Foundation, the Medical Foundation, the Daesoon Jinrihoe Foundation, and the Foundation Corporation.4)
These are divided into five locations:
– Yeoju Headquarters Temple Complex 驪州本部道場, Yeoju 驪州市, Gyeonggi Province 京幾道; built 1986.
– Geumgangsan Toseong Training Temple Complex 金剛山土城修煉道場 , Goseong-gun 高城郡 Gangwon Province 江原道; built in 1995.
– Pocheon Cultivation Training Center 抱川修道場, Wangbangsan 王方山, Pocheon City 抱川市, Gyeonggi Province 京幾道; managed by the Seoul splinter bangmyeon;5) completed in 1992.
– Junggok Training Center 中谷道場, Yongmasan 龍馬山, Seoul 首爾; the first training center, completed in 1971, and now managed under the Cheonan bangmyeon.
– Jeju Trainig Training Center 濟洲修煉道場, Jeju City 濟洲, currently under Cheonan bangmyeon management; completed in 1989.6)
Established in 1984, this foundation is currently governed by a board with seven directors, three appointed by Daesoon Jinrihoe Headquarters, two by the independent Seoul bangmyeon (branch), and two by the independent Cheonan bangmyeon. Daejin University was established in 1992, along with six high schools. Daejin operates two campuses in China. There is also a Daejin Youth Training Center, opened in 2013, and a Daesoon Jinrihoe Scholarship Foundation from 1976.
This non-profit foundation, established in 1992, is governed by a board with five directors, two appointed by Daesoon Jinrihoe, two by Seoul the Seoul branch, and three by the Cheonan branch. Bundaeng Hospital, with 760 beds, was completed 1998. A volunteer relief organization, the International Medical Volunteer Corps, was set up in 2015 to offer overseas relief.
Founded in 2007, this foundation is wholly owned by Daesoon Jinrihoe. In Daesoon Jinrihoe theology such work is essential for members. The Foundation is active in three areas, Charity Aid 救護慈善事業 (Guhojaseonsaeop 구호자선사업), Social Welfare 社會福祉事業 (Sahoebokjisaeop 사회복지사업), and Education 敎育事業 (Gyoyuksaeop 교육사업). A number of affiliated areas fall under the Daesoon Jinrihoe Welfare Foundation. These are solely under the direction of the Yeoju Headquarters:
This institution holds assets and real-estate investments. The status of some assets held by this foundation are still under legal dispute.
Discussing the organizational design of all of these units would require much more space than is available here. Instead, the focus will turn to the headquarters organization. This page from the website summarizes the headquarters departments:
At the top of the organization sits the Holy Leader, the Dojeon (都典 도전). The Holy Leader is titular leader, present in spirit. Actual executive power is exercised by the Central Council and the Central Council Steering Committee. Below these decision-making units are the six functional divisions, for education, theology, auditing & inspection, religious services, proper guidance, and propagation & edification. Of these special mention should be made of the departments of auditing & inspection, and proper guidance. Auditing & inspection is concerned with reviewing branch activities, including financing and records. Proper guidance is concerned with moral practice. All six of these departments were laid out by Park Wudang in the Daesoon Jinrihoe Constitution, the Doheon (道憲 도헌). This structure has been firmly in place since the Constitution was first published by Daesoon Jinrihoe in Daesoon Jinrihoe Year 102 (1973). Since the Doheon lays out Daesoon Jinrihoe central headquarters organizational structure, it will be discussed below in some detail.
The Doheon is in 126 articles and 11 chapters. The first two chapters specify the organization’s name, the founder, the major deity worshipped, the group’s tenets 宗旨(jongji 종지), and its universal scope. It defines the role and responsibilities of a member 道人 (doin 도인, “cohort”).
Chapter Three specifies that lineage authority, derives from Kang Jeungsan (Article 13). In Daesoon Jinrihoe thought this lineage refers to the transfer of legitimacy from Kang Jeungsan to Jo Jeongsan to Park Wudang. In a reflection of this principle, members are expected to (mutually) transmit the teachings as if from master to master 師師相傳 (sasasangjeon 사사상전) (14).
Chapters four through eleven deal with the headquarters 中央本部 (Jungangbonbu 중앙본부) organization, and require detailed discussion. The headquarters is divided into these six main units:
The title of Dojeon refers to Park Wudang, the Holy Leader. The Dojeon is defined as the successor and representative leader 代表領導 (daepyoyeongdo 대표영도) of Jo Jeongsan (17). The Dojeon serves for life (20). The constitution and other rules of the Dojeon must be followed (18). In case of absence 有故時 (yugosi 유고시) the Dojeon’s duties will be carried out by the Head of the Institute of Religious Services 宗務院長 (Jongmuwonjang 종무원장）or, if he is unavailable, by the Chairperson of the Central Council 中央宗議會長 (Jungangjonguihojang 중앙종의회장) (22). All outside affairs are to be handled by the Head of the Institute of Religious Services, who acts in the name of 名儀 (myeongui 명의) the Dojeon (23, 27). The Chairperson of the Central Council is appointed for an unlimited term by the Dojeon. However if there is loss of trust from the Central Council this restriction does not apply (25).
The Central Council is the highest deliberative organ in Daesoon Jinrihoe (36). It is composed of senior officers from the bangmyeons (branches) who have the ranks of seongam (宣監 선감)，gyogam (教監 교감)，bojeong (補正 보정) (37).8) The Central Council has the authority to amend the Doheon, to approve budgets, to manage assets, to supervise the Institute of Religious Services, and to elect directors of the Religious Services and the Institute of Auditing and Inspections. As mentioned earlier, the Central Council is headed by a Chairperson. Central Council decisions are carried out by the Chief Executive of the Institute of Religious Services (52).
This department handles propagation and edification affairs 布德 教化業務 (podeok gyohwa eommu 포덕 교화 업무) (29). It is to be separated into the Department of Propagation 宣正部 (Seonjeongbu 선정부) and the Department of Edification 教正部 (Gyojeongbu 교정부) (56). Department of Propagation members will receive appointments based on recruitment of new members 淵源功續 (yeonwongongjeok 연원공적), in three grades: seon-gam (宣監 선감), for recruiting 1000+ members, cha-seon-gam (次宣監 차선감) for 700+, seonsa (宣伺 선사) for 300+, and seonmu (宣務 선무) for 100+ (57).
This department handles guidance and corrective duties, focusing on people who have fallen short or who act improperly 善道業務 (seondoeommu 선도업무) (30, 62). It also holds up individuals who act well as role models. The three types of position in this department, appointed by the Dojeon, are bojeong (補正 보정), jeongmu (正務 정무) and jeongri (正理 정리)(63).
The Council of the Institute of Religious Services 宗務會議 (jongmuhoeui 종무회의) is made up of directors and deputies from all the religious services departments (69). The Council handles important issues and plans, revisions to rules or the Doheon 道憲改定, 規定改定 (Doheon gaejeong Gyujeong gaejeong 도헌개정규정개정), budgets and accounts decisions 豫算案 決算案 (yesanan gyeolsanan 예산안 결산안), and proposals from committee members 宗物委員提案 (jongmuwiwonjean 종무위원제안).
The Institute of Religious Services is further divided into four distinct operational departments: Planning 企劃部 (gihoekbu 기획부), General Affairs 總務部 (chongmubu 총무부), Religious Research and Edification 教務部 (gyomubu 교무부), and Cultivation Affairs 修道部 (sudobu 수도부) (75). It is these four departments which handle most of the administrative duties in the Yeoju Headquarters. In many ways staff in these departments are the “face” of the headquarters, interacting with visitors, branches, and a outside agencies alike. The author was able to interview the directors 部長 (bujang 부장) from each of the four departments and to uncover some sense of day-to-day operations.
The interviews revealed several points of commonality. The most apparent point concerns recruitment of talent. The four departments recruit staff exclusively from within the ranks of existing headquarters staff or those recommended from the bangmyeons. There does not appear to be any recruitment from outside Daesoon Jinrihoe, and prior familiarity is a key criterion. Beyond that, each of the four directors expressed high confidence in their staffs. Each unit appears to be built on a high level of trust.
A second point of commonality involves job assignments. There are no specific job descriptions spelling out duties. Duties are made at the discretion of the director 部長 (bujang 부장), the section chief 次長 (chajang 차장), or individual team leaders. In the same way periods of heavy workload can be managed through help from other departments. There is a strong sense of mutual assistance and few silo-like barriers between the four departments.
Thirdly, although job descriptions may not be spelled out, pay grades are clear. There are four distinct levels: wonjang (院長 원장), chajang (次長 차장), and pyeongsawon (平社員 평사원, “staff”), grade levels which run throughout the Yeoju organization. These same grades are widely used in Korean industry, with the exception of wonjang which is commonly used for the head of an institute or hospital.9)
Fourthly, recruitment is done through a process of interviews and consensus-building between the heads of the four departments. While in theory an individual director could choose new staff, the practice is to discuss and reach agreement on every hire.
A fifth point of commonality concerns documentation. There is a strong preference for clear documentation and approval. Key documents are chopped for approvals by multiple authority levels, and all documents are stored centrally.
Lastly, each department shows a strong service orientation. All the staff interviewed to date have shown a strong sense of mutual assistance and a clear attitude of wanted to resolve issues.
Beyond these organizational traits, each of the four units sport widely different orientations and working principles, in keeping with their different missions:
– General Affairs: General Affairs and Planning departments share common traits with similar units in the corporate world. General Affairs manages all operations including transportation, daycare, feeding visitors on ceremonial days, and grounds upkeep.
– Planning: This unit creates and maintains documents for key projects and decisions.
– Religious Research and Edification: The Religious Research and Edification Department performs research into religious principles, publishes printed material, and supports the Research Committee and the Research Institute (84).
– Cultivation Affairs: the Department of Cultivation Affairs manages cultivation, edification, organization, and rituals (修道 教化 組織 儀式 sudogyohwajojiguisik 수도 교화 조직 의식) (87). This unit also oversees visitors and books visits from bangmyeons to Yeoju.
This final department handles audits and inspections of other departments as well as devotees 道人修行審查檢討 (doinsuhaeng simsageomto 도인수행심사검토) (32). The Auditing and Inspection Committee 監查委員會 (gamsawiwonhoe 감사위원회) members are nominated by the Central Council and approved by Dojeon (102). Their membership cannot overlap with other departments (103). Normal terms of office are one year (105).
Members are appointed to one of two offices, the Inspection Committee 審查委員會 (simsawiwonhoe 심사위원회) or the Disciplinary Action Committee 懲戒委員會 (jinggyewiwonhoe 징계위원회) (108). The five-member Inspection Committee impartially reviews all operations and cultivation issues. The Disciplinary Action Committee handles issues referred by the Inspection Committee (114). It is also composed of five members (115).
Sections 118-120 specify how demerits and punishments are to be determined. They range in severity and include the following actions:
II. Unpacking the Daesoon Jinrihoe Organization
Clearly, Daesoon Jinrihoe has a relatively fixed organizational structure, described with a degree of detail not seen in many religious groups. Having already outlined the structure, the following section will investigate this organization from a variety of angles.
Power here refers to the authority to decide action. While it may appear as if the six functional departments are of equal stature, real authority rests between three units: the Dojeon, the Central Committee, and the Institute for Religious Services. While the Dojeon is undoubtedly the ultimate authority, since it is the organizational manifestation of the Fountainhead, it is not currently present in human form. Instead the Dojeon is a divine presence, functioning in the manner of a fixed memorial, with all the associated connotations.
The other two power centers are the Central Committee and the Institute. The Committee represents the interests of the bangmyeons, while the Institute represents the interests of the bureaucracy. The heads of these two units are undoubtedly the most powerful individuals in Daesoon Jinrihoe. This dual structure of shared power was most likely Park Wudang’s way of ensuring that Daesoon Jinrihoe would continue to function while considering the needs and perspective of the bangmyeons. Ideally the two sides will cooperate and agree on major issues. In case of disagreement, the Doheon is clear that final authority rests with the Committee.
Daesoon Jinrihoe headquarters 本部 (bonbu 본부) structure is clearly hierarchal and formal. From the standpoint of organizational studies, hierarchies are organizational forms characterized by clear lines of authority and top-down communications. They tend to use command and control styles of management. Because of this, hierarchal organizations can be efficient at implementation of strategy. But they tend to be resistant to change. Vertical lines of communication are often smooth in such structures, although bottom-up feedback loops will not exist unless they are nurtured.
Hierarchical type organizations are often vilified in the popular imagination.10) Those caught up in their many levels complain about their defects—dominance by the top, dishonesty, disaffection and distrust at the bottom.
The management writer Jacob Morgan reflects this negative take on the authoritarian organizational type. He notes that communication is typically top-down, and as a result innovation, engagement, and collaboration all suffer.11) Overall activity is “sluggish.” In situations of stability the hierarchy is ideal for maintaining the status quo. Yet in a field of intense competition, competitors can move in quickly against a hierarchical organization.
Yet this organizational form remains widespread across human cultures.12) The strengths of hierarchies are worth adumbrating: they are capable of change, depending on leadership, and they fulfil a need for psychological security and structure.13) Hierarchies can in fact provide a sense of identity, a “place” in society. They also bring order and regularity, two psychological needs. People crave regularity.
Hierarchies also contain tensions, primarily between the forces of egalitarianism and authority. It can be argues that hierarchies are by nature authoritarian.
Despite the numerous problems with the hierarchical form, there is one primary reason hierarchies are the most common form of organization: efficiency. This efficiency goes beyond low transaction costs. Gary Miller and Terry Moe imagine the hierarchal organization as a functioning system of multiple decisions and multiple value systems. Far from being a “dictatorship of the entrepreneur,” the hierarchy is a mechanism for social choice.14)
The Daesoon Jinrihoe headquarters is a clear hierarchy with strict divisional lines of authority. It thus shares in the efficiencies of the hierarchy form. Yet it is a religion, which adds the unique element of religious authority.
Religions differ in one way from their secular counterparts in that foundational authority springs from outside the social hierarchy. The hierarchy itself is at best a “secondary authority structure.”15) Ultimate authority rests only in the primary authority structure, usually the divine. But this leaves open one weakness: organizational authority can always be challenged from forces outside the hierarchy. At the very least the addition of this primary authority structure complicates power flows. While all hierarchies are subject to factions and informal structures, the likelihood of disagreement on goals increases with the addition of a primary structure. And in this case, uncertainty concerning goals rises. In addition, a faction or minority within the hierarchy may attempt to control the majority.16) Such organizations are thus highly susceptible to political games. In fact since interpretation of religious authority is inevitably subjective, and an individual can always appeal to external (divine) authority, political behaviour is more or less expected.17)
Given these considerations, research into religious organizations should not overlook the latent sources of tension within hierarchies. These tensions, especially from local congregations, can also be sources of innovation.18)
Daesoon Jinrihoe places great emphasis on religious orthodoxy. According to their website, “orthodox religious authority” 宗統 (jongtong 종통) is a “continuous heavenly endowment” that originated in the Supreme God (Kang Jeungsan) and flowed through Jo Jeongsan and Park Wudang.19) This extreme focus on orthodox transmission may be a reflection of the instability to which religious hierarchies are susceptible.
Besides being a strict religious hierarchy, Daesoon Jinrihoe’s organization is Korean. As a result there is inevitable influence from Korean forms of organizational culture. To explore these influences the following section will briefly review Korea’s modern economic development.
South Korea remained poor and undeveloped for a decade after the end of the Korean War in 1953. Corruption was a significant reason the country did not begin to develop a light industrial base.20) But things began to change under the leadership or Park Chung-hee, who seized power in 1961. Park believed in strong central control of the economy as well as intense nationalism. For all his faults, Park had an intense focus on economic development. In the economic realm he made good use of economics experts to manage the economy. This focus resulted in the establishment of the Economic Planning board in 1962. The government itself was involved in many economic projects, and became in one well-known phrase an “entrepreneur-manager.”21) Up through the 1970s the state, in the form of public enterprises, played a major role in the economy.
At the same time the Park regime funnelled investment into private enterprises. These took the form of subsidies for exports. Central planning also played a role in the ensuing rapid growth: Korean planners supported those industries that grew exports, and allowed those who failed to die quickly.22) Those enterprises which flourished later morphed into the chaebols (財閥 재벌).
Another feature of the Park regime was control of the financial industry. The government funnelled loans to certain companies, which in turn pushed them to take risks. The general friendliness toward export-oriented companies became a focus on only a few players.23) The government got into the business of “picking winners.” In 1973 this manifested in a new policy to promote heavy and chemical industries (HCI). This emphasis coincided with an unhappy turn in politics whereby Park declared martial law.
The large industrial groups, chaebols, began by focusing on privileged HCI industries. But they soon branched out into new products. Taking Hyundai as an example, this chaebol began with a focus on shipbuilding. From the start it was larger than its competitors. In the heavily subsidized industries such as shipbuilding, the largest usually absorbed most of the profits while the others struggled.24) The chaebols later grew by taking over smaller firms and diversifying into new product areas.25) In 1984 there were 108 chaebols in Korea.26) There are still 45 traditional chaebols, which in many ways still dominate the economy.27) However the form has come under increasing criticism. This in many ways is a social structure suited to a specific period that now needs to adapt to retain its relevance.
Due to their prominence, chaebols are a cypher for Korean business culture. Yet organizationally they face several perennial challenges. The first is succession, as the founder departs the scene.28) When a father dies, his wealth is traditionally distributed to all sons, although unequally. This division of assets is a threat to chaebol integrity.29) A second challenge is recruitment of talent. Attracting the best talent requires going beyond the pool of talent with family connections. Despite this imperative to attract outside talent, the general level of management expertise in chaebols, according to Myung Hun Kang, is low.30) And regardless of the degree of expertise, success in the Korean context has always been tied to access to funding, which gave the chaebols and their powerful founding families influence down to the present. Modern industries in Korea did not evolve independently. Instead, they were introduced from above.31)
Culturally chaebols are extremely formal and centralized. Important decisions are taken only by senior management, often using the gyuje (規制 규제), approval procedure.32) Consensus is not prized, and there is little resistance to decisions. Organizationally the chief executive exercises strong control over planning and finance, with the planning function usually reporting to the chairman. Despite this strong vertical control, individuals often do not have clear job descriptions. There is significant leeway for the manager to arrange workloads. Put another way, the extreme centralization of decision making means it is not necessary to clarify the relationship between authority and responsibility for every staff.33)
Career managers, often called tobagi (토박이, “natives,”), do have strong influence in chaebols, and their prominence is rising. But overall the organization is characterized by the need to maintain harmony and stability.34) Financially, the diversification strategy adopted by chaebols causes strain on middle management. The extreme centralized control exerted over multiple divisions, called the M-form, solves this problem. In the M-form there are systems that tightly control goals, but divisions are allowed to function semi-autonomously.35) Funding is then allocated to divisions and product lines internally, not through the external markets.36)
Few writers draw a connection between Korean religious culture and chaebols. In contrast, the influence of traditional values, especially Confucianism, on the chaebols is well-noted. For instance, Young Hack Song and Christopher Meek note the influence of such traditional Korean national traits as collectivism, vertical relations, social stability, “human feeling 人情 (injung 인정)”, high-context cues in communication, and a preference for concrete, particularistic values over universalist principles.37) However, Confucianism may not be the best explanation for Korean organizational traits. As Jack Babalet notes, the Confucian model where the filial son conforms to the expectations of caring for the parent does not fully explain chaebol management practises. Instead, he concludes that the model of the military with its top-down orientation is a better explanation for Korean organizational structures.38) In this line, one of the few writers to note the influence of chaebol culture on religion is Ho Keun Song, who notes the common “developmentalist” model introduced by Park Chung-hee that was picked up by business as well as nongovernmental and religious agencies.39)
It would be overly simplistic to categorize Daesoon Jinrihoe as a chaebol. Yet the developmentalist model that resulted in the chaebol form of management organization has obvious parallels in Daesoon Jinrihoe structure: a high degree of centralization and strong vertical hierarchy; top-down decision making; tight control of audit, budgets, and planning; an emphasis on conformity; and separation into divisions. In Daesoon Jinrihoe’s case the organizational divisions take the form of the bangmyeon, a topic we turn to next.
Ⅲ. The Bangmyeon 方面
The headquarters hierarchy is only one side of Daesoon Jinrihoe. The other is found in the bangmyeons, the branches. Each member belongs to a bangmyeon. This basic fact reflects their importance. The chart below outlines the four primary bangmyeons in Daesoon Jinrihoe, and their subsidiary bangmyeons:40)
Note that Cheonan, Seongju, Seoul, and Mokpo bangmyeons function independently from Daesoon Jinrihoe headquarters.
According to Daesoon Jinrihoe officials, there are 105 bangmyeons in Daesoon Jinrihoe, each one functionally independent of the headquarters. Twenty of these are considered to be of significant size. In architectural terms each bangmyeon has a head office. The larger version, a multi-storied building able to hold 200-2000 people, are called assembly halls 會館 (hoegwan 회관). The smaller version is the uisil or fellowship hall 會室 (hoesil 회실), normally a 2-3 story building able to hold around 100 worshippers. The lowest level below that is the propagation center 布德所 (podeokso 포덕소), usually a house in a neighbourhood holding twenty to thirty worshippers. In 2015 there were 645 propagation centers. While the bangmyeons are theoretically independent, it should be noted that the assembly halls are legally owned by the Yeoju Headquarters. Clearly, the bangmyeons are not fully autonomous.
The bangmyeon in Daesoon Jinrihoe is the largest sub-unit, and could be translated as “lineage.” However the range of other possible English translation is broad. Bangmyeon could literaly be translated as “aspect” or “division.” In-Gyu Park, in a recent article on Daesoon Jinrihoe organization, translates bangmyeon as “branch.”41) Jason Greenberger uses the term “local propagation cells.” John Jorgensen calls them “parishes” or “chapters.” He notes that the bangmyeon followers owe allegiance to their immediate superiors. He also notes that all donations flow through the headquarters before distribution of any funds to the branches.42)
It is not the intent here to debate the best English translation of an indigenous term. Clearly, Daesoon Jinrihoe as an organization will decide which translation it prefers on its own. Nevertheless, this paper treats “lineage” not as a label, but more as a mode of functioning. The contention is that Daesoon Jinrihoe bangmyeons function in the mode of lineages.
The term lineage indicates a deep, inter-generational connection between social units. Lineage is an established concept in sociology implying common descent through one parent. Such lineage links can span from 5 to 10 generations, but in Daesoon Jinrihoe the connection is between networks of units connected by allegiance and derivation. The “ancestral” level refers to the founder of the lineage.
While use of the Korean term bangmyeon avoids the problem of imprecise English translation, interpreting the bangmyeon as an instance of the lineage function, which is the contention here, maintains the connotation of a deep emotional bond between levels. This deep bond of loyalty between levels has important implications for the functioning of Daesoon Jinrihoe as an organization. Before sketching out these implications, the following sections will discuss lineage from various angles.
According to interviews with Daesoon Jinrihoe scholars and directors, the bangmyeon was an organizational form inherited from Taegukdo. As such bangmyeons existed prior to 1969. In-Gyu Park’s pathbreaking research has identified eight separate bangmyeons during the Taegukdo period after the head temple was moved to Gamcheon (甘川 감천) village in Busan in 1955. Each of the these were spread over nine separate districts in the refugee village of Gamcheon. The names were preceded by the title “Gam” to indicate origin in Gamcheon:43)
As can be seen Chungju is found in both districts one and eight, and Goesan bangmyeon is found in both districts four and six. At the same time there are two bangmyeons in district five.
And true to the practice in Daesoon Jinrihoe today, the titles of the eight bangmyeons refer to the villages of birth of the bangmyeon heads. Taegukdo largely developed in Jella province before and after the Japanese occupation period (1910-1945). The place names are all villages or cities near Jella and, more often, in Chungcheong province.
This information found in In-Gyu Park’s work opens up new avenues for research. From this we can see that the bangmyeon structure was used in Taegukdo. However we still know little about the earlier situation in Mugeukdo, Taegukdo’s first name, and we lack first-hand accounts about how these bangmyeons changed over time. We do know from observations of Daesoon Jinrihoe that the bangmyeons are far from static; they are vibrant organizations, subject to transformation.
This background brings us back to the question of how the bangmyeons relate to the lineage mode of functioning.
The concept of lineage function is most completely developed in the field of anthropology.44) The early twentieth-century school of functionalist anthropology was rooted in the lineage. Scholars such as Meyer Fortes, writing on the Tallensi of West Africa, noted that “the lineage system … is the skeleton of their social system, the bony framework which shapes their body politic … guides their economic life and moulds their ritual ideas and values.”45) Evans-Pritchard, in his study of the Nuer, noted that lineage identity could shift. The system was situational; individuals acknowledged different affiliations based on how deep the ancestral ties were.46) Evans-Pritchard also found that lineages fulfilled a political function in societies without a strong state.47)
This functionalist model of unilinear descent was criticized in post-WWII academia, and largely displaced by structuralism. Many scholars found the ethnographic descriptions of lineages did not match facts on the ground, and that lineage was not needed as an explanation of political alliances.48) Instead other factors such as ecology, politics, and economics offered better explanations.
Nevertheless lineage remains a core concept in anthropology. M.G. Smith defines the lineage as “a group of persons differentiated genealogically from others in terms of unilineal descent.”49) Lineage depends on this concept of descent, which implies parentage.50) Parenthood may not be biological, and in the religious sphere it is organizational and supernatural.
The term lineage is frequently used in a variety of traditions to refer to how a teaching is passed from teacher to pupil. This is in line with the Holy Lineage in Daesoon Jinrihoe, the jongtong, which descends from Kang Jeungsan to Jo Jeongsan to Park Wudang, who collectively form the Fountainhead in Daesoon Jinrihoe theology.
Koreans are certainly familiar with this religious sense of lineage. The idea of a dharma lineage was introduced to Korea along with the various schools of Mahayana Buddhism. In Chinese Buddhism, the concept can be traced to the Tang dynasty disputes over religious authority in several schools, including the Tiantai 天台 and Faxiang 法相, but especially Chan 禪. The various accounts of transmission from master to disciple found in these schools refer back to an original document, the Chronicle of the Transmission of the Dharma Treasury 復發藏音源轉付法藏因緣傳 (T.2058).51) In general, each lineage laid claim to “exclusive authority” lacking in all other transmissions.52)
As Park Sang-kyu notes, the idea of dharma lineage was also found in Daoism and, importantly, in the Donghak (東學 동학) movement of the late 19th century. He sees all these organizational intuitions as being tied into the Daesoon Jinrihoe theological idea of yeonwon, the fountainhead, a term previously used in Donghak to refer to a person who transmits.53) The yeonwon term was later picked up by Cheondoism and Daesoon Jinrihoe’s predecessor, Mugeukdo. Park is on the right track when he characterizes the religious lineage as a “spiritual blood-lineage.”54)
To sum up, whether or not the example is from family lineage or religious lineage, the metaphor of descent is active as an organizing principle within many new religions, including Daesoon Jinrihoe. It is in this sense that the lineage function works in bangmyeons.
Many officials in Daesoon Jinrihoe disagree with the characterization of bangmyeons as lineages. As an alternative, it is possible that the clan organizational form offers a less controversial option for characterizing the bangmyeons. The clan is a widely-accepted concept with broad application in sociology. Durkheim defines a clan as an organic association which resembles a kin network but may not include blood relations.55) Beyond this, the defining characteristic of the clan is “goal convergence.” The members of the clan unite because they share a common goal. A clan requires reciprocity, legitimate authority, and common values and beliefs. Clan communication requires intimate relations with coworkers.
The management theorist Chester Barnard places strong emphasis on the idea of communion in the clan. He describes such communion as “ … the feeling of personal comfort in social relations that is sometimes called solidarity, social integration … . The need for communion,” he continues, “is a basis of informal organization that is essential to the operation of every formal organization.56) In the clan the strong sense of solidarity — communion — is coupled with a de-emphasis on contractual relations. Durkheim also notes that the clan displays a high degree of discipline, even though individual performance is hard to extract.57) Because of this discipline, clans can be highly efficient. Their efficiencies are achieved by “high performance ambiguity and low opportunism.”58)
In this generalized sense, any occupational group can be considered a clan, as long as there is organic solidarity.59) The key difference with the bureaucracy organizational form is the lack of the need for auditing and evaluation in the clan.60) Unlike the clan, the hierarchy depends on surveillance and auditing of individual performance.
Both lineage and clan concepts have strong resonance in Korean culture. The clan 本貫 (bongwan 본관) concept in particular was a dominant form of social organization from the Silla (57~935) through the end of the Joseon dynasty (1392~1897). During the Silla only the senior upper class 兩班 (yangban 양반) clans were given names by the king. This practice expanded during the Koryeo dynasty (918~1392). And the clan system survived largely intact through the Japanese colonial period. Yong Chool Ha explains how the Japanese colonial regime found the traditional family structure useful and so made no attempt to restructure it. At the same time maintaining close family links was perceived by Koreans as a way to express passive resistance to Japanese rule.61) This long-standing cultural model was thrown into disarray as a result of the Korean war (1950~1953), which thoroughly restructured social relations and set the stage for the growth of the urban nuclear family.62)
Traditional Korean clan structure had three levels: the clan, bongwan; the sub-clan 派 (pa 파), ranging from several up to a thousand families, and the household 家門 (jib-an 집안), which equates with the extended family.63) While this familial organization has today been replaced by the nuclear family structure, the parallels with the Daesoon Jinrihoe bangmyeon structure are remarkable. In particular, the clan name includes a reference to the home town of the clan founder 始祖 (sijo 시조). In addition, there is a clear tendency in the larger clans to splinter into powerful sub-clans, a process seen in Daesoon Jinrihoe and Taegukdo as well. As we have noted, Taegukdo’s primary organizational form was the branch. This carried into the reformulated organizational blueprint designed by Park Wudang for Daesoon Jinrihoe.
Regardless of culture, the clan is recognized as one of the foundational organizational forms. Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron see the clan and the hierarchy as two of the four most fundamental of all organizational forms.64)
With this added perspective we can see in the lineage principleas a mechanism of authorization through descent. Lineage is significantly different from either clan or hierarchy. Lineage is a mechanism, while clan and hierarchy are forms. And lineage can operate within both.
The hypothesis presented here is that the primary lineage rests within the headquarters, in the office of the Dojeon, while another lineage function operates through the layers of each bangmyeon, connecting bangmyoen leaders to individual believers. And to the extent that the bangmyeon emphasizes organic solidarity — communion — it functions as a clan. But it is certainly possible that one bangmyeon may resemble more a strict hierarchy while another functions more like a clan.
The paper turns now to two bangmyeon examples.
The author did fieldwork among two bangmyeons, Yeongwol and Geumreung. The following sections give descriptions of each bangmyeon, and then the specific projects.
The author met and interviewed three senior Yeongwol bangmyeon leaders, in the spring of 2019. Choen Heesook, head of the Branch, Seok Mok Jin, and Choen Kwang Yeong.
Choen Hee Suk joined the Taegukdo movement in 1965, when she moved to Busan. Yeongwol had been a propagation center in Busan. When Park Wudang moved to Seoul in 1968, members from the bangmyeons moved with him. According to Choen, at that time a mere 840 of the 10,000 total followers moved with Park. Only seven of these followers were from Yeongwol. Today Yeongwol boasts 40,000 devotees and a total of 23 branches.
We met Choen in the Sil Lim Assembly Hall in western Seoul. There are all together five assembly halls and 40 propagation centers in Yeongwol.
Sil Lim is an impressive glass and concrete building built in the office building style on a busy Seoul avenue. There is a small driveway and parking lot in the front, with barely enough space for greeters to stand. When we arrived a full contingent was there to meet us, at least 150 members, mainly women, dressed in formal Korean hanbok (韓服 한복) style. Each floor in the building is devoted to a different function. Two of the upper flours house the main altars. The bottom floor is devoted to a cafeteria and kitchen seating some 50+ people.
We visited the main hall of Geumreung on November 16, 2019, where we met bangmyeon leader Kim Jae-Mok.
Geumreung was originally a sub-branch of Bujeon bangmyeon. According to Kim Jae-Mok, Geumreung was established as a separate bangmyeon at the request of Park Wudang. At the time Kim had already attained the rank of executive within Daesoon Jinrihoe Geumreung bangmyeon. There is another side to this story, which involves the separation of Seongju Branch from Daesoon Jinrihoe in 1999. As is common with most such schisms, some of the members decide to stay, while others decide to leave. Kim Jae-Mok and his followers may simply have been the faction that decided to stay.
Regardless, as of this writing Kim is the leader of the largest single bangmyeon in Daesoon Jinrihoe, with some 250,000 followers and 12 branches throughout Korea.
Kim is an energetic septuagenarian who apparently enjoys meeting visitors. There was a line of visitors waiting outside his door to meet him when we visited, yet he spent well over an hour in relaxed conversation with our group of four. He spoke some English and seemed tuned into New Age concepts such as ki 氣 energy.
Summing up this section on the lineage, we cannot conclude from research to date if these two bangmyoens function as hierarchies or clans. What is clear is that the lineage function is present in both. There are several three additional salient points. First, the bangmyeon form of organization appears to be based on clan-like ties of loyalty to the bangmyeon head. Second, the lineage principle functions in a distinctly different way from the centralized hierarchy discussed earlier. Each bangmyeon by definition vies with the other bangmyeons in a number of ways for what can be called religious capital, such areas as membership, investment funds, and opportunity for advancement within the Yeoju hierarchy. The bangmyeon contains within itself latent centrifugal forces with the potential to challenge the organization through rapid growth, or, alternatively, the possibility to drag the structure down through weak results. Note that Choenan bangmyeon was the largest single branch within Daesoon Jinrihoe when it separated in 1999. To counter this constant threat of dissolution, Park Wudang instituted several mechanisms. First, he spelled out relative organizational duties in the Doheon. He also kept ownership of the assembly halls in the hands of headquarters. This means that most income streams as well as major investment decisions are under central control. Thirdly he set up the audit function under the Institute of Auditing and Inspection, which has broad scope in checking bangmyeon behavior. We have seen that an emphasis on auditing and control is a hallmark of the hierarchical form of organization. In line with this, Daesoon Jinrihoe has a well-developed mechanism of excommunication. Thus while the bangmyeon maintains control of recruitment and education — the membership assets — the headquarters exercises control through the very chaebol - like mechanisms of audit and planning. Most significantly, in 1978 Park instituted the Jeongwon, the Department of Proper Guidance, to concentrate power in the headquarters.65)
IV. Conclusion: The importance of Lineage Function
This study discusses three forms of organization, the hierarchy, the clan, and the lineage. The Daesoon Jinrihoe Yeoju Headquarters structure is a classic hierarchy, with functional units arranged in layers, clear lines of authority, top-down communication, and an emphasis on stability. In contrast, the bangmyeons, the “branches,” resemble clans, with high goal convergence, a strong sense of shared reciprocity, and common values and beliefs. The clan is characterized primarily by organic solidarity.
The third form of organization, the lineage, is seen here as an ideal form based on the idea of common descent from a single (apical) ancestor. Seen as an organizational form the lineage tends to be fragile, since a single line of descent can be interrupted at any point. This explains why in many cultures the genealogical lineage is often disrupted in practice.
This paper takes the position that lineage is best seen as a process instead of a structure. As such the lineage form can operate as an organizational paradigm within clan and hierarchies. In the Daesoon Jinrihoe central hierarchy the key lineage is religious, the jongtong mentioned above. But the lineage pattern serves as an underlying paradigm cementing ties in the bangmyeons as well. Using the language of the French sociologist Luis Althusser (1908~1990), we can call lineage an articulating paradigm that serves to link two distinct structures. Althusser focused on systems, which he called state ideological apparatuses, that served to link economic structure with superstructure.66) In our case the linkage is not between ideological systems. Instead it is between two institutional forms that differ at their cores. The lineage principle bridges the gaps between bonbu and bangmyeon, creating commonalities while diffusing potential pitfalls.
Organizational structure is a relatively understudied aspect of religious functioning. Far from being a drab recitation of roles and rules, we have seen how organizational analysis offers the potential to reveal new insights on how new religions operate. Daesoon Jinrihoe is a new religious organization with an evolved sense of its organizational identity, ingrained in what we can call its organizational character. Park Sangkyu argues that personal lineage is the major characteristic of Daesoon Jinrihoe organization.67) This discussion has shown this to be partially true. On one side Daesoon Jinrihoe is a highly centralized hierarchy in which decision making is centralized. At the same time the bangmyeon side of the equation operates along different lineaments, those centered on master-pupil ties. Thus the bangmyeon are far from being clones of Yeoju. Nor are they simple divisions within a hierarchy. They are in many ways separate entities, independent in thought as well as style. Each bangmyeon branch has a geographical as well as stylistic character — the branch names are normally the home towns of the founder, for instance.68) The branch leaders met in this initial exposure did not feel like bureaucrats. Rather they were battle-hardened survivors. At the same time they are connected to the Daesoon Jinrihoe bonbu headquarters by legal, financial, and ideological ties. Each bangmyeon seems fully dedicated to Daesoon Jinrihoe’s core mission, and able to launch into recruitment mode at a moment’s notice.
It is in the combination of hierarchical efficiency and lineage creativity that we can seek the secret to Daesoon Jinrihoe’s success.