America celebrates its Independence day annually on July 4th. How about South Korea? National liberation day of Korea is celebrated annually on the 15th of August in both North Korea and South Korea. National Liberation Day in South Korea is called Gwangbokjeol (광복절), which literally means, “the day the light returned,” or “the day we brought the light back.” On the other hand, in North Korea, it is known as Chogukhaebanguinal (조국 해방의 날), which can be translated as Liberation of the Fatherland Day.
Gwangbokjeol is a public holiday in South Korea. All government departments as well as private organizations remain closed. The national flag called Taegukgi is hoisted on the day of. National Liberation Day of South Korea is not given, but it is earned. During Japanese Colonial period, many people had fought against the Japanese colonial rules. The March 1st Movement came as a result of the repressive colonization of the Japanese Empire. Approximately 2,000,000 Koreans had gathered in Pagoda Park on March 1st, 1919. It ended up resulting massive massacre. It is reported that more than 7,500 people were killed and 46,000 people were arrested and tortured.
Yoo Gwan-soon was also arrested during the March 1st Movement. Yoo Gwansoon was born in 1902 in Choong-cheong province, South Korea. She was one of the main organizers of the movement against the Japanese annexation of Korea. She passed out Taegukgi’s to the people and lead the crowd in cheering for independence at age seventeen. She was arrested shortly after the movement. Even while she was in prison, she led the prisoners on the first anniversary of the March 1st Movement. The prison authorities tortured her, but even in those pains, she refused to surrender, yet kept her identity as a Korean and pursued independence of Korea. She died on September 20th, 1920 from the torture. Forty years later, the Korean government awarded her the Order of Merit for National Foundation.
On April 29th, 1932, there was a bombing attack at the Shanghai International Settlement for Japanese emperor’s birthday celebration. It was targeted at Japanese imperialists and killed General Shirakawa and the government minister Sadaji. This was all conducted by a 25-year-old Korean young man named Yun Bong-gil. He brought a water bottle, which was filled instead with a bomb, to the celebration, where he killed people as well as himself. He was born in 1908, and by the age twenty, he had become an independence activist. He published pamphlets and educated village people to awaken people about independence. His patriotic death was recognized and awarded by the Republic of Korea medal of Order of Merit for National Foundation by the Korean government in 1962.
There are so many independence activists who dedicated their lives for the country, for Korea. Ahn Joong-geun, who killed the Japanese prime minister Ito Hirobumi, has left this famous saying: “I have ventured to commit a serious crime, offering my life for my country. This is the behavior of a noble-minded patriot.” The light brought back by all those “noble-minded patriots” is shining bright on the peninsula.
By Hailey Cho