Chondoism is a lesser-known religion which, for the most part, is only practiced in Korea. It is difficult to find information on Chondoism, which is sometimes spelled “chundoism” or “chondogyo”, and it is not very well-known in most parts of the world. It has existed for more than one-hundred and forty years.
According to asian-nation.org, followers of this religion make up less than one percent of the people in South Korea. isv2001.org, the World Wide Volunteer website, indicates in statistics on South Korea that Chondoists make up 0.2% of the population, which would be about ninety-seven thousand. There are known to be followers of Chondoism in North Korea, but it is difficult to find many statistics on this. A report from the United Nations quoted a North Korean official as putting the number of Chondoists in the North at about 40,000.
A website on Chondoism based in South Korea, chondogyo.or.kr, states that the religion’s objectives include such goals as to “support the nation”, “deliver people everywhere from suffering”, “spread truth throughout the world”, and “construct a paradise on earth.” It contrasts this with other religions which promote the belief that paradise will only be found in Heaven.
One of North Korea’s three political parties is associated with Chondoism. It is called the Chondoist Chongu Party, it was founded in 1946, and it holds some of the Supreme People’s Assembly (parliament) seats. According to The People’s Korea, a newspaper run by Koreans in Japan, almost eleven percent of the seats (about 75) are held by this party.
North Korean media outlets occasionally publish reports on Chondoist events or occasions, as well as statements released by the above-mentioned political party. In 1997, as reported by the Korean Central News Agency, a major Chondoist leader from South Korea defected to the North. He was later awarded with a government order and highly praised in the Northern media. Chondoists celebrate a holiday called Heaven Day every year on the 5th of April; this is usually reported by the KCNA as well. Chondoism is rarely mentioned by South Korean or non-Korean media outlets.
In one chapter of the book “With The Century”, written by the former President of North Korea, he gives a favorable opinion of the Chondoist religion. He praised the Chondoist ideal of “building a paradise on Earth”, rather than accepting life as it is like some religions suggest. He stated that Chondoism combines some positive characteristics of both Christianity and Buddhism, and referred to it as a “progressive religion.”
In addition to the above-mentioned belief, Chondoism also has a different concept of God than other religions do. According to the South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism, this belief means that all men bear the God of Chondoism in their own minds, “and this serves as the source of his dignity.” It also states that every man “is identical with”, but “not the same as God.”
Overall, this religion – while not as widespread as it once was – is still somewhat common in Korea, and offers a number of interesting concepts. It is substantially different from most other religions, especially Hinduism.