August 15 is one of the most meaningful days to Koreans. It is a national holiday in Korea and the National Liberation Day of Korea, Gwangbokjeol. It is celebrated every year on 15th of August, and it will be marking 71st year of Independence in 2016.
On this day, you will get to see many buildings and streets with Korean national flags called “Taegeukgi”.
1. Why is Gwangbokjeol so special?
It is the day when Japan declared unconditional surrender and World War 2 was over, which made Korea restore its own power. ‘Gwangbok‘ means to regain the light, which perfectly describes the restoration of national independence that was lost for 36 years under the Japanese invasion.
2. People who sacrificed their lives for greater purposes.
Many people were suffered and killed during the colonial period. Some voluntarily gave up their lives in exchange for the liberation of Korea.
Ryu Gwansun (1902~1920) is the most famous figure who became the symbol of the March 1 Movement (1919) that took a big role in taking back Korea’s independence.
She was only a 16-year-old student when she organized the March 1 movement in her home town. In the demonstration on March 1st, her family members were brutally killed by the Japanese soldiers and she was imprisoned.
Even though she was locked up in prison, she continued to declare the liberation of Korea. However, due to the harsh torture that the 16-year-old body could not stand, she passed away in prison.
Ahn Jung Geun (1876~1910) was a Korean independence activist and nationalist who is known for his assassination of Ito Hirobumi, the prime minister of Japan and former Resident-General of Korea back when Korea was about to be colonized by Japan.
He shot Ito Hirobumi and yelled for Korean Independence in Russian, waving the Korean flag. He was later sentenced to death by the Japanese government but his perspectives of Pan-Asia, which is similar to the concept of the European Union but among Korea, China and Japan, were highly praised even by the Japanese.
You can visit Ahn Jung Geun’s memorial hall located in Seoul.
Kim Gu (1876~1949) is another historical figure who cannot be excluded when talking about liberation. During the Japanese colonial period, he moved to China to establish the provisional government of Korea that worked as the main quarter for the liberation movements. As he was always threatened to be killed by Japan, he had to move to one place to another frequently, but never gave up working for the liberation.
Finally, after the liberation, Kim Gu came back to Korea, but Korea was divided into South and North. He insisted on building one single country, instead of two. However, in 1949, one year later after the establishment of the South Korean government, he was assassinated by a Korean soldier. There are many political rumors behind his death, but nothing has been proved yet.
3. The place of despair and will, Seodaemun Prison
When people in Seoul were captured for the action that led to the liberation of Korea, they were sent to Seodaemun prison located in Seoul. People who were captured went to a court run by the Japanese and were tortured brutally in the prison.
After the liberation, the prison changed into an educational place to remember how the prisoners under the Japanese colonial were treated inhumanely. If you are interested in learning about Korean history, try a visit to this prison. For directions, click here.
You can also learn more about the historical backgrounds of the anti-Japanese struggle and the historical figures during the colonial rule by visiting the Independence Hall of Korea located in Cheonan.There will be a variety of events taking place across the country to celebrate this meaningful day for the people of Korea.
In Seoul, there will be a walking contest, performances, a photo exhibition and many more programs around Cheonggye Stream from 10am until 4pm. In Busan, you will be able to enjoy face painting, Taegukgi fashion contest and plenty more at Yongdusan Park from 11am until 1pm.
If you want to learn more about Gwangbokjeol, take a look at this great video. 😉
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