This legend narrates the story of the revolutionary Jeon Bong-jun (1855-1895) who was executed for his role as leader of the Donghak Rebellion. Jeon was born in Gobu (present-day Jeongeup), North Jeolla Province, and entered the Donghak (Eastern Learning) faith in 1890 at the age of thirty-five, emerging as the leader of the rebellion four years later. He was in hiding in Sunchang when an insider informed the authorities, which led to his arrest and execution. There are two different narratives transmitted in the oral tradition about Jeon: The first is about the tragic death of Jeon’s father, which motivated his role in the rebellion, and the second is about his arrest, blamed on his confusion about the name Mt. Gyeryong.
Donghak leader Jeon Bong-jun is referred to as Nokdujanggun (Mung Bean General), and the mung bean flowers that appear in the lyrics of the folk song “Seya Seya Parangseya (Bird, Bird, Blue Bird)” is believed to refer to Jeon.
The first narrative related to Jeon cites the death of his father as the cause that drove him to start a rebellion. Jeon His father Jeon Chang-hyeok, while serving as the superintendent (jangeui) at the Gobu Hyanggyo (County School), protested the tyranny of Magistrate Jo Byeong-gap, for which he received the punishment of severe flogging, and died after a month. Jeon Bong-jun, angered by the death of his father, led the Donghak Rebellion, calling for the purge of corrupt officials and revenge for his father. This tale reduces the rebellion into a personal campaign, a perspective that is reflected in the use of the term Donghangnan (Donghak Uprising) as opposed to Donghakhyeongmyeong (Donghak Rebellion).
The rebellion was joined by over a hundred thousand men, overpowering the military, but when the military received relief from Japanese troops, Jeon was defeated at Ugeumchi in Gongju. Following his defeat, Jeon fled to the village of Geumseok in Sunchang, but a former Donghak member informed the authorities of Jeon’s hideout, which led to Jeon’s arrest. Prior to his arrest, Jeon had a dream in which a mountain god (sansin) appeared and warned him to stay away from Mt. Gyeryong, located near the village of Geumseok, but Jeon mistook the name as Mt. Gyeryong of South Chungcheong Province, which led to his arrest and death. The folk tale redirects the blame for Jeon’s arrest from the betrayal of a subordinate to the confusion over a name. The fact that Mt. Gyeryong was highlighted as the location of the new capital in Jeonggamnok (Prophecies of Jeong Gam) reveals public distrust of the popular book’s prophecies.