The revolution was an uprising by peasants who sought to reform the feudal system in March of 1894 and to declare national sovereignty in the wake of a Japanese invasion in September of that year.
The Donghak Peasant Revolution, which took place over the course of 1894, was a grand-scale people’s(minjung) protest against the injustice and corruption of the feudal society of the Joseon Dynasty and foreign incursions into national affairs. Arising from the organized honor restoration campaign for the founder of the Donghak Order from 1892 to 1893 and the peasant uprising in Gobu in January of 1894. The revolution commenced in Mujang of Jeolla Province that March.
A large number of farmers followed both Donghak ideology, which reflected the ideological views of the subjugated class, and the nation-wide movement of the Donghak Order. The Gapsin Coup in 1884 and the independence association movement led by the reform party, the expulsion campaign of wickedness for the administration led by the non-political Confucians or the struggle by the righteous citizen army are examples of reform pressed by the upper class. The Donghak peasant reformation, on the other hand, was a protest by the general people or citizen emanating from the lower class.
The previous protests that occurred sporadically at the local level of Gun or Hyeon (counties or townships) developed into nation-wide struggle, and brief protests became persistent, long-term protests. It was the nation-wide revolution carried out by the majority of peasants channeling the popular will to reform that was evident in the frequent minor peasant uprisings in the late Joseon Dynasty.
They were frustrated by Japanese expansionism, the tendency of a corrupt and inept feudal ruling class to depend on foreign powers, and the systematic rigidity of conservative Confucians.
However, the revolution became the unifying focus of social reformation movements which had tremendous influence on the protests, ranging from the uprising by the righteous citizen army which originated in 1894, to the Independence Movement of March First in 1919 and the anti-Japanese armed struggle. It also became the foundation of the self-reliant protection movements for national sovereignty such as the modernization of Korea and the citizen movements of the nation.
Although it ended with an incomplete revolution, it greatly influenced the evolving geopolitical order of Korea and East Asia and shifted the nation from a medieval system to a modern state in the late 19th century. It was also a remarkable historical event in early modern Korea which opened new horizons. The emergent concepts of equality and democracy served as a matrix for the activists of righteous citizen army in 1895, the Independence Movement of March First in 1919, the April 19th Revolution in 1960, and the Democratization Movement in Gwangju of May 18th in 1980.