During the Japanese Colonial Period, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the Presbyterian Church, and the Ch’ŏndogyo rural movements collectively became one of the largest agrarian reconstruction campaigns. In order to materialize a vision of modernity centered on religion, agriculture, and a pastoral life, each of the three movements featured Danish-style cooperative systems. Praised as a model for modernizing an agriculture-based economy, Danish cooperatives were characterized as ideal mechanisms to pool the labor and resources of individual peasants and create enough economic power to negotiate the challenges of capitalism. To the leaders of the YMCA, Presbyterian Church, and Ch’ŏndogyo rural movements, cooperatives represented the best means to stem the collapse of agrarian society. Cooperatives further appealed to these leaders because they created a collective body of individuals that aimed to elevate life above all, including money and capital. This article analyzes why and how the YMCA, Presbyterian Church, and Ch’ŏndogyo rural leaders sought to reclaim, rather than restore, the past for the purpose of creating new beginnings in the present through Danish cooperative systems in order to realize their alternative visions of modernity.

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