Celebrating the start of the road to freedom from Japanese occupation, Independence Movement Day is a time for Koreans to not only show their national pride and remember the Japanese occupation, but also to take a stand on the current issues in Korea.
Japan colonized and had control over Korea from 1910 to 1945, and Korea was used as an economic tool for Japan during that time. On March 1st, 1919, the first movement by Korean for their own liberation. Many of these activists were put in jail, and some died while there. However, the flame of liberation was never distinguished in the Korean people, and the Japanese released their control over the country of Korea in 1945.
There is more than one independence day celebration in Korea. The Independence Movement Day commemorates the beginning of liberation campaigns.
I was fortunate enough to be in Seoul on March 1st for the holiday. To say I had no idea what this day meant to the country is an understatement. The plans for the day consisted of visiting the very prison, Seodaemun Prison, where some of the prisoners lost their lives. A humbling experience, I felt I was at the root of the movements that had taken place so many years ago. Many Koreans also visited on this day; some were there to experience the prison themselves, others were teaching children the history of what happened there.
The prison wasn’t our only destination; we moved on to Gyeongbokgung Palace, the largest palace in Seoul. There we saw many people dressed in traditional hanbok, mostly young adults. They seemed to be celebrating not only the movement and liberation, but their culture as a whole. However, it was when we left the palace that I realized the full scope of Independence Movement Day in Seoul.
As we left there were large rallies going on in the street. Thanks to our ISA staff, who were able to translate for us, we understood that the rallies were concerning current political issues in Korea. The holiday is used as a platform to make statements about other opinions and even to start a new movement.
The day seemed to come full circle, seeing where the movements started and then how they’re still going on today. Korea has proven to be a vibrant and passionate place, and I am pretty sure that isn’t going to change.
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