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The Days When Korea Took Back the Light
  • Jo Yu-na & Jeong Seung-in
  • 승인 2015.08.31 18:41
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South Korea has had twists and turns until now. They’ve had several times of wars and even lost their country to Japan in 1910. Japan tried to occupy the Korean peninsula in so many ways. For instance, they banned public gatherings, shut down newspapers which were written in Korean, forced changing Korean names to Japanese names and drafted Koreans into the coal mine by force. Against Japan’s atrocities, many people took part in an independence movement although it might not give Korea liberation. In October 1945, dropping atom bombs on Japan brought the end of World War II and Korea finally regained liberation. Korean calls it ‘Gwang-bok’ which means restoration of light. In other words, liberation means ‘Korea restored light that they lost for 35 years’.

Before liberation, pro-Japanese collaborators and independence activists were in conflict. Pro-Japanese collaborators were Korean people who cooperated with Japan’s plans of Korean invasion. Also, they inflicted mental or physical injuries upon Koreans by taking advantage of Japan and even obstructed the independence movement. After ‘Gwang-bok’, Korea passed a special law to punish pro-Japanese collaborators. However, it didn’t work well. As a result, one saying became common among Koreans. That is “Collaborators’ families thrive for three generations, but independence fighters’ families decline for three generations.” Currently, what we can do is historically punish collaborators. We have to clearly record and make documents dealing with their atrocities. Also we have to honor and memorize independence activists.

This year marks South Korea’s 70th anniversary of the National Liberation Day. Seodaemun Prison had a flash mob and Cheonan-si had a family concert. Also near CWNU, the Changwon provincial government had concerts, exhibition and commemorative lectures. Especially at the exhibition, 70 pieces were displayed to memorize and console comfort women and painful history.

On July 22nd, a film ‘Assassination (2015)’ was released which takes place in the Japanese colonial era. This film ingeniously drew audiences totaling 10 billion on August 15th. One of the big reasons of success is it was released around Independence Day. As you can see in this movie, collaborators had no choice but to cooperate with Japanese colonialists under duress and they think independence is impossible. However, despite all the bad conditions, independence activists kept resisting Japan. We have to respect them and emulate their strong will and efforts. Above this film, there are many films which are about independence activists like ‘Modern boy’. Not only films, but there are documentaries like ‘The Big Picture (2012)’. This documentary says ‘The truth that we don’t memorize will disappear.’ We should not think painful history has nothing to do with us. Instead, we should keep in mind ’A nation that forgets its past has no future.’

There are numerous countries all over the world which had a colonial era like our country and of course, those days are over. Despite the fact that independence and liberation are distinctly separated, a lot of people indiscriminately use those concepts. For instance, March 1st, 1919 is the day when independence was declared and August 15, 1945 is the day of liberation. It’s due to the reason that independence and liberation can be achieved at the same time but it’s extremely rare. There is usually a time interval because even though one declared independence, time is needed to achieve liberation. However, since the Independence Day triggered liberation, it has a greater meaning.

To give an example, The United States and the Philippines also have an Independence Day in their country.

United States of America (July 4)

July 4, 1776 is the day when the father of American democracy ‘Thomas Jefferson’ announced ‘The Declaration of Independence’ which declared its independence from the United Kingdom and they achieved their liberation on September 3, 1783 which is the day when the United States finally ended the colonial days from the United Kingdom. In that sense, 4th of July has a huge meaning in the US and gorgeous festivals are held all over the country. During the daytime, patriotic speeches and parades reminiscent of the life of the old American ancestors can be seen and heard. When it gets dark and the temperature goes down, grand fireworks at places such as football stadium, riverside and seaside are seen.

Philippines (June 12)

It’s the 117th anniversary of Philippines independence from Spanish colonial rule. On June 12, 1989 General Aguinaldo proclaimed this date as the Independence Day to commemorate the end of the colonial era from Spain. However, this proclamation was not recognized within the United States since it was them who exercised dominion over Philippines. Later on, the United States made Philippines independent again on July 4th just like their Independence Day which implies the meaning for the Philippines to commemorate the US Independence Day. One of the famous independence activists in the Philippines would be ‘José Rizal’. In 1892 Manila, he organized the National Union of the Philippines. But it didn’t take long until he got arrested for expanding the social reform movement. Later on, in December, he was publicly executed for being involved in a riot.

In most countries, Independence Day is considered a holiday and a lot of people treat this day as a day off. Instead of that attitude, it's time for us to rethink for those who sacrificed their lives for our country and reaffirm our national pride. We should honor the noble spirit of the deceased patriots and always thank them for the country we have.

Jo Yu-na & Jeong Seung-in  msjwk9497@naver.com

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