The 1st of March, also known as ‘Samil Jeol’ in Korean, is a public holiday in South Korea. It is a day that commemorates Samil Independence Movement in 1919.
However, this day is more than just a national holiday. In fact, March 1st was a turning point in Korean history. It triggered a nationwide civil protest or an independence movement against the ruling of Korea by Japan. Later on, ultimately it led to the establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea.
In 1919, right after the Paris Peace Conference, (in this conference, president Wilson proclaimed “self-determination”) many Korean patriots thought that the independence is not far away. At the same time, Korean students studying in Tokyo published a statement demanding freedom from colonial rule.
At 2 pm, 33 people who formed the core of the independence movement convened at Taehwagwan Restaurant and read the Korean Declaration of Independence. Initially, they planned to assemble at Tapgol Park or Pagoda Park. However, they decided to do it in a private location to prevent it from turning into a riot. They wanted to do it in a peaceful way without making innocent victims. The leaders of the movement signed the document and sent a copy to the Governor General. They even called the police themselves and informed their action to be arrested.
Despite the leaders’ concerns, massive crowds assembled in Pagoda Park waiting for the leaders. However, a young student started to read the declaration publicly instead of the leaders because they didn’t show up. Afterwards, the gathering formed into a peaceable procession, which the Japanese military police attempted to suppress.
As the processions continued to grow, the Japanese local and military police could not control the crowds. The panicked Japanese officials called in military forces to quell the crowds including the naval forces. As the public protests continued to grow, the suppression turned to violence resulting in massacres and other atrocities.
A foreign journalist who witnessed the massacre described that the Japanese police herded the inhabitants of the Village of Jeam-ri and locked them up in a church and burnt it. While the church was burning, the Japanese police shot through the windows to ensure that no one made it out alive.
Approximately more than 1,500 demonstrations and many were massacred by the Japanese police force and army. Based on the book, ‘Bloody History of the Korean Independence Movement’, 7,509 people killed, 15,849 wounded and 46,303 arrested.
Japanese police force and army arrested people and took them to the infamous Seodaemun Prison where many Koreans faced torture death without trial or due process.
The movement was a catalyst for the establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in Shanghai in April. It influenced nonviolent resistance in India and many other countries. People subsequently formed The Korean Liberation Army and allowed to operate in China. The movement also triggered a rise in the mobilization of Catholic and Protestant activists as well as activism mobilized in the U.S., China, and Russia.
After this huge movement, Japanese government changed its way to rule Korea. Governor-General Hasegawa accepted the responsibility for the loss of control and was replaced by Saito. Finally, after the Korean War (May 24th, 1949) March 1st was designated as a national holiday in South Korea.
5. Where To Commemorate Independence Movement Day
In order to commemorate this day of great significance, Koreans put national flags on the windows at homes or pay a visit to historic sites. Various performances and hands-on events are held to commemorate March 1st Movement. Take a look and see where you can also join the commemoration events! 😉
A. Seodaemun Prison History Hall
Many Koreans visit Seodamun Prison History Hall to remember the brave spirits of those who fought for the country’s independence and democracy. So here, you will be able to witness the pain and struggle of Koreans during the colonization period.
You will be able to take a look around the real prison cells back then; for example, torture chambers and the tools that were used to torture the Korean patriots, as well as the displays photographs of execution. For details and directions, click here.
B. The Independence Hall of Korea
Another best spot you may want to visit on March 1st is the Independence Hall of Korea, which is highly reputed as one of the best museums in South Korea.
From indoor to outdoor exhibitions, various monuments, and displays of photos, the Independence Hall of Korea is an awesome museum where you can learn everything about the Korean independence movement history.
And if you do make a visit to this place, don’t miss out on Taeguek Square where 815 Koreans flags are raised and the view is truly amazing! For details and directions, click here.
Now, if these historic sites amaze you and you want to discover and explore more about South Korea, visit Trazy.com, Korea’s #1 Travel Shop, where you can find out all the latest things to do in this wonderful country. 🙂