August 15th 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 annually celebrated on the 15th of August. Since August 15th is on Sunday this year, there will be a substitute holiday on August 16th.

On Gwangbokjeol, you will get to see many buildings and streets with Korean national flags called “Taegeukgi”.


1. Why is Gwangbokjeol So Special?

August 15th is the day when Korea was liberated from the Japanese colony in 1945. The Korean government was established in 1948 after overcoming the fuss generated from the liberation.

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 taken away for 36 years under the Japanese invasion.


2. People Who Fought for Independence

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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 hometown. 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.

He shot Ito Hirobumi and yelled for Korean Independence in Russia, waving the Korean flag. He was later sentenced to death by the Japanese government, however, his perspectives of Pan-Asia, which is a union among Korea, China, and Japan, were highly evaluated.

You can visit Ahn Jung Geun’s Memorial Museum located in Seoul.

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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 by the Japanese government, he had to move from one place to another frequently but never gave up fighting for 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 Places of Despair and Will

When people in Seoul were captured for the action that led to the liberation of Korea, they were sent to the Seodaemun prison located in Seoul. Many Koreans were captured and tortured brutally in this prison.

The prison is now used as an educational place to not forget how people were treated inhumanely under the Japanese colonial. For those who are interested in learning about Korean history, this place is worth a visit. For directions, click here.

 

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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 Korea.


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