Korean Independence Day: The Real Reasons It Matters

Was Korean Independence a failed movement? Now that we’ve got your attention, we explore the events, conspiracies, and urban legends behind Korea’s biggest national holiday.

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NOTES

  • a.k.a., 삼일 운동, Man-se Demonstrations
  • Background
    • Patriotic Enlightenment Movement
      • Korea Preservation Society (1904, Boanhwe)
        • Song Su-man, et al
        • Public lectures and pronouncements
        • Succeeded in getting Japan to withdraw its demand
      • Other organizations popping up after the demise of The Independence Club
        • Society for the Study of Constitutional Government
          • Monarch and government should heed the law
          • The law should equally apply to citizens
        • Society of Spokesmen for the People
      • Ban on public assembly in Seoul
        • Went underground
        • Focused on promoting Korean industry and using education to create awareness
        • Korea Self-Strengthening Society (1906) 
          • derived from Society for the Study of Constitutional Government
          • Opposed Gojong’s abdication
          • Forced to dissolve
          • Re-appeared as The Korea Association
      • Association for Redemption of the National Debt (1907)
        • Repay the large debt to Japan that Japan was using as political leverage
        • Started in Daegu and spread to Seoul
        • Inspired men to do a no-smoking campaign
        • Women sold decorative hairpins and rings
        • Governor-general fakes embezzlement charges against the editor of the Taehan Maeil Shinbo
          • Released but movement had fizzled by then
      • Secret organizations
        • The New People’s Association (1907)
          • Promoted Korean awareness
          • Ceramics factory, schools, bookstores
          • Plans to build armaments
          • Kept in touch with expat organizations
          • Leaders arrested and dissolved (1911) in Case of the One Hundred Five
    • Japan annexes (1910)
    • Land reorganization really bad for tenant farmers
    • Inflation doubling each year
    • (1918) Famine in Japan that was patched up with Korean rice
      • Rice prices seriously hiked over 500% in two years
        • Governor-general showed incompetence in handling this
    • Donghak had instilled anti-Japanese sentiment in the late 1800s, but that had waned
      • Loss of hope from years of suppression
      • Mass emigration to China and coastal regions of Russia
        • Two types of organizations forming
          • Military style
            • Usually close to Korea but one was formed in the U.S.
          • Diplomatic style
            • Shanghai – Mutual Assistance Society (1912, Sin Kyu-shik)
            • Hawaii – Korean National Association (1909, Syngman Rhee)
  • Inspired by Fourteen Points
    • Paris Peace Conference (Jan 1918)
    • Self-determination (though not explicitly stated)
      • V. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.
      • Fueled nationalist movements worldwide
        • Independence for other nations under Austro-Hungarian and Russian control: Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia, Poland, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia
  • Yoo Wun-hyeong (student) establishes Shinhan Youth Party in China (Jan 1919)
    • Sent representatives to the conference in Paris and other places to lobby for Korean independence
  • Korean students in Tokyo published statement demanding freedom
    • Korean Youth Independence Corps
    • Met at YMCA Hall in Kanda, Tokyo (Feb 8, 1919)
      • Adopted series of resolutions 
      • Demanded independence
      • Encouraged those within Korea
  • Inside Korea
    • Organizations started by religious organizations
  • (Jan 1919) King Gojong dies
    • Poisoned?
      • Coffee Plot (1898)
      • Others assassinated (Queen Min)
      • Preparing his body
        • Noted it was very swollen, and most of teeth were gone
      • Really started as a game of pass-it-on
        • Former military officer Han Jin-chang was convinced Gojong was poisoned
          • Told his sister’s father-in-law
        • Evidence
          • Gojong was healthy but suffered convulsions 30 minutes after drinking shikhye
          • Limbs swelled in two days so much that they removed his loose hanbok pants
          • Teeth were missing and tongue was worn out
          • 30cm black line from neck to abdomen
          • Immediately after Gojong’s death, two court ladies died suspiciously
    • Death and funeral set things in motion
    • (March 3) Funeral rites
      • Would bring in people from around the country
      • Decided to act two days before event

백세시대 / 3.1운동 100주년 되새기는 만세운동] 민족대표 33인 중 손병희 등 30인은 끝까지 싸워 - 백세시대

  • (Mar 1, 1919 @2 p.m.) Taehwagwan Restaurant (a.k.a. Myongwolgwan)
    • About restaurant
      • Chef Ahn Sunwon (former court chef)
        • Introduced palace cuisine
      • Courtesans/concubines from local and royal courts hung out there
      • Famous as a social hangout
        • Pro-Japanese scholars
      • (1918) burned down
        • Re-opened in Insa-dong
      • Currently
        • Taehwa Building. There is a stone commemorating it.
        • Near Jongno intersection
          • Insa-dong, near Jogyesa
          • Across from CenterMark Hotel and LaMer Gallery. Next to SM Duty Free.
          • (I would go there to use the ATM)
    • 33 representatives met
    • Controversy over whether to do a petition or a full blown framed declaration
    • Read aloud Korean Declaration of Independence
      • Choe Nam-seon
    • Leaders signed and sent copy to Governor General

      We herewith proclaim the independence of Korea and the liberty of the Korean people. This we proclaim to all the nations of the world in witness of human equality. This we proclaim to our descendants so that they may enjoy in perpetuity their inherent right to nationhood. In as much as this proclamation originates from our five-thousand-year history, in as much as it springs from the loyalty of twenty million people, in as much as it affirms our yearning for the advancement of everlasting liberty, in as much as it expresses our desire to take part in the global reform rooted in human conscience, it is the solemn will of heaven, the great tide of our age, and a just act necessary for the co-existence of all humankind. Therefore, no power in this world can obstruct or suppress it!
  • Leaders phoned the police and were arrested
    • Similar to how current protest leaders arrange ahead of time who would be arrested
  • Other points that they published through media
    • Discrimination by the government when employing Koreans versus Japanese people; they claimed that no Koreans held important positions in the government.
    • A disparity in the quality of education being offered to Korean and Japanese people.
    • Mistreatment and open disregard of Koreans by the Japanese occupiers.
    • Political officials, both Korean and Japanese, were arrogant.
    • No special treatment for the Korean upper class or scholars.
      • You could see the elite nature of the movement
    • The administrative processes were too complicated and new laws were passed too frequently for the general public to follow.
    • Too much forced labor that was not desired by the public.
    • Taxes were too heavy and the Korean people were paying more than before, while getting the same amount of services.
    • Land continued to be confiscated by the Japanese people for personal reasons.
    • Korean village teachers were being forced out of their jobs because the Japanese were trying to suppress Korean culture and teachings.
    • Korea’s resources and labor had been exploited for the benefit for the Japanese. They argued that while Koreans were working towards development, they did not reap the benefits of their own work.
  • Some notables
    • Discouraged vengeance against Japan
    • Intended to be peaceful
    • There was a common thread amongst leaders all over about raising the Korean people’s “moral character”
      • They felt other nations wouldn’t take them seriously if they didn’t?
  • Tapgol Park
    • Students gathered
    • Chung Jae-yong (student) read it publicly
    • Others around the country read the proclamation
  • Peaceful procession
    • Shouted, “Dongnip man-se!” (“Long live Korean independence!”)
    • JP police attempted to suppress
    • Crowds getting bigger
      • Around 2 million in 1,500 protests
    • JP calls in army and navy on top of the military police
  • Turns to violence
    • Several thousand massacred
    • 2 Schools, 47 churches, and 715 houses burned/destroyed
      • NUMBERS
        • Likely greater than the official counts
        • 15,961 injured
        • Korean vs. Japanese
          • Killed: 7,509 vs. 553
          • Arrested: 46,303 vs. 12,000
    • Cheam-ni, near Suwon
      • 29 people herded into a church and set fire
  • Spread throughout the country (map)
    • The numbers caught Japan by surprise
    • 2 million participated
    • 1,500 protests
    • In all but seven of 218 county administrations
    • Spread to Manchuria, Russian Maritime Territory, and other areas
  • Aftermath
    • Some of the leaders publicly executed
    • Japanese reaction
      • One of the victors of WWI, so it had more political clout
        • Keep in mind that the countries that gained independence after the Treaty of Versailles were from the losers. Britain, U.S., and France still had their territories (India, The Philippines, African and Middle Eastern colonies)
      • Dismissed as a public disorder incident
      • Governor-General Hasegawa Yoshimichi accepted responsibility
        • Though his predecessors were more to blame
        • Replaced by Saito Makoto
      • Military police replaced by civilian force
      • Limited press freedom
      • All reversed when Japan went back to war
    • Militias formed that actually engaged in battles in Korea and in Manchuria
    • Greater resistance in Korea by Catholic and Protestant leaders
    • Diaspora in China, Russia, and U.S. got more activist
    • Leaders went into exile
      • Provisional governments in Shanghai and Russia “Provisional Council of the Republic of Korea” (April 1919)
        • Syngman Rhee, Kim Koo, Ahn Chang-ho, Kim Kyu-sik
          • Kim Kyu-sik attended the Paris Peace Conference (May 1919)
          • Representative sent to International Socialist Party Congress in Switzerland (August 1919)
            • Adopted a resolution calling for independence
        • Centralized many of the independent organizations in Korea and around the world
          • Systems were set in place post-3.1 that made it possible to coordinate down to the county and township levels (including funding–hmm)
          • Guerilla armies in Manchuria and Russia centralized under one banner “General Headquarters of the Restoration Army” in An-tung, Manchuria
          • Set up Tongnip Shinmun
            • Newspaper and P.R. arm (reminds me a little of VANK)
        • Significance
          • Not a restoration of the monarchy, but a republic
          • After WWII, the leaders of this organization were brought in to lead South Korea
            • So, to counter those who claim that the March 1 movement was a failure
    • Yoo Gwan-soon urban legend

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