March 1, 1919 is one of the most important dates in modern Korean history and its spirit continues to live on every March 1st when the streets of Korea are filled with national flags and people enjoy a national holiday.
Samiljeol (삼일절) or Independence Movement Day is a public holiday in Korea dedicated to the March 1st Movement. This protest happened on March 1, 1919, and is one of the earliest public demonstrations of Korean resistance during the Japanese occupation. The day of Korean Independence Movement has been commemorated as a public holiday in Korea since 1949.
The name 삼일절 (Sam-il-jeol) can be broken into three parts:
삼 = 3
일 = day
절 = festival day (word suffix)
The direct translation is ‘3-1 Festival Day’, which is to commemorate what happened during the public resistance on March 1st. The demonstrations are also sometimes called “만세운동” (Manse Undong), which means ‘Manse Demonstrations’.
On March 1, 1919, (33) thirty-three Korean Movement core activists met at the Taehwa-gwan Restaurant in Seoul and announced the Korean Declaration of Independence. Following that, Koreans took it to the streets, marching and shouting “Manse!”, which means “long live Korea” or “may Korea live 10,000 years.” The Japanese police took 12 months to suppress the peaceful movement, which resulted to thousands of deaths. Before it was put down, approximately 2 million Koreans had participated in more than 1,500 demonstrations.
During this time a courageous 18-year old girl, Yoo Gwan-Sun, handed out hundreds of Korean flags to the people and organized independence demonstrations. She was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured to death. To this day, she is regarded as “Big Sister Yoo Gwan-Sun” and a national hero of Korea.
However, the fight was not without cost. During the movement, about 7,000 people were killed by the Japanese police and soldiers, and 16,000 were wounded. Many people lost properties, with more than 700 private houses, 40 churches, and a couple of school buildings destroyed by fire.
More than 45,000 people were also arrested, 10,000 of which were tried and convicted. Many fighters who were arrested were kept in Seodaemun Prison in Seoul without trial. The prisoners were tortured and some were even executed.
The March 1st Movement proved though to be the catalyst for the establishment of the 1919 Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in Shanghai. The government did not gain formal recognition from world powers but continued to resist the Japanese occupation during the 1920s and 1930s. This resulted to the formation of Korean Liberation Army in 1940 which led the war against Japan. On August 15, 1945, Korea was finally liberated from Imperial Japanese colonial rule.
The Independence Movement Day was declared as a national holiday in Korea on May 24, 1949. This holiday is celebrated by a reading of the Korean Declaration of Independence from 1919 which takes place in Seoul’s Pagoda Park.
태극기 (Tae-geuk-ki), the Korean flag, is raised in homes, businesses, and institutions all throughout the country. There are numerous parades, concerts, and exhibitions to commemorate the day. Those who died fighting are honored at a ceremonial ringing of the bell in Bosingak, Seoul. The Mayor of Seoul, other dignitaries and invited guests in three groups of four persons toll the bell 11 times to remember the 33 heroic Koreans who in 1919, signed the Declaration of Independence.
March 1st : The day of Korean Independence Movement – Samiljeol (삼일절)
Written by Krew Member Miao Canlas