The History of Won


The History of Won-Buddhism (Wonbulgyo Kyosa)

Part 2. Founding of the Order

Chapter 5. Completion of the System of the Order

2. Relief of War Victims and Founding of the Nation

Although the long-awaited liberation finally arrived, there was disorder and confusion during the transitional period which was overwhelming. In the midst of all the chaos there were waves of war victims returning home from Manchuria and Japan. Head Dharma Master Chŏngsan believed that the first step to cooperating with the reconstruction project was to give relief to the returning war victims. Thus he instructed that relief camps be established in the Iri Train Station on September 4th and in the Seoul Train Station on September 10th, Won-Buddhist year (1945) with an approval from the Council. For six and half months in Seoul and for 13 months in Iri, the relief camps offered a helping hand to those victims of war who had been starving, shabbily dressed, disease-stricken, and wandering. The camps provided them with food, clothing, shelter, emergency medical treatment, aid for childbirth, and funeral services.
The relief project was mainly directed by several executives of the General Headquarters and some young officials, and operated by volunteers from 20 some provincial districts who took turns for a week at a time. Their warm and conscientious care became a model for all relief groups at the time and the object of societal admiration and recognition. For 3 months in Busan and 5 months in Jeonju, many of the laity and the ordained actively participated in the relief work led by the government as well. According to the work report of that year, the total number of brethren who were helped through the 4 relief camps reached 800,000. The total number of congregants mobilized in the relief aid exceeded 13,000. The labor cost provided in place of member-mobilization and the expenses incurred during the mobilization amounted to a substantial sum (Approximately 1,200,000 Korean Won). During this time, in the relief camp based in Seoul, over a few hundred thousand leaflets with slogans based on the spirit of the Creed, such as "From the life of vanity to the life within one`s means; From the life of resentment to the life of gratitude!" were distributed to the brethren in need of relief. Lectures on ideology were held to benefit the returning student soldiers. Numerous war orphans were taken in at Jeonggak Temple in Hannam-dong, which evolved into the establishment of Bohwawon (Hwang Jeongsinhang, the first headmaster), an orphanage that marked the beginning of a charity branch of the new Order. Song Doseong, one of the central members of the Head Circle Council, lost his life from an infectious disease in the course of working as a relief worker.
Meanwhile, the night school at the General Headquarters was open to the children in the nearby villages to teach Hangeul, the Korean Alphabet. In January of the following year, a lecturer from Hangeul Society was invited to a training session for the Won-Buddhist ministers to instruct them in Korean education, after which an illiteracy eradication campaign was launched throughout the temples around the country. This resulted in over 4,000 trainees being produced. With increasing frequency of communication between the General Headquarters and Seoul, the branch office for the General Headquarters (with Kim Daegeo as the first manager) was established in Jeonggak Temple in Seoul to take charge of public relations, broadcast edification, and provide guidance to the Seoul District. In the meantime, reverted properties like the Yongkwang Temple in Yongsan, Seoul and Japanese shrines in Seojeong, Busan and Dongsan-dong, Iri were purchased from the government and developed into the district offices of Seoul, Kyeongnam, and Iri, respectively.
Around this time (October, 1945), Head Dharma Master Chŏngsan, through his writing, "The Doctrine of Founding a Nation", expressed his views on the current state of affairs, the gist of which was to cultivate national strength deeply rooted in eternity, with the spirit as its foundation, politics and education as its stems, national defense, construction, and economy as its branches and leaves, and the way of evolution as its result.