01 March 2008

march 1st movement

korean declaration of independence pamphlet produced by korean red cross (lots of great information and this image from here. thanks to gusts for the heads up.)

on a snowy february 8th, 1919, some 600 korean students studying in japan gathered at tokyo's kanda distrct ymca. inspired by japan's brutal colonization of korea and u.s. president woodrow wilson's "fourteen points" speech, which argued for the right of national self-determination, the students came together to read a declaration of independence written by yi kwang-su.

march 1st protest (also from here).

three weeks later, on march 1, 33 nationalists gathered in a seoul restaurant to read their own declaration of independence. in nearby tapgol park (탑골 공원), another student, chung jae-yong, read the document to a massive crowd. over the next year, the japanese military struggled to control the 1,500 protests by over two million koreans. after summoning the japanese army and navy to quell the movement, 7,509 koreans were dead, 15,849 were wounded and over 46,000 were arrested. western powers did nothing.

photo of the seodaemun prison where korean independence activists were tortured and killed by the japanese (photo by robert koehler).

on april 13, 1919, korean nationalists in shanghai founded the provisional government of the republic of korea, which served as the de jure korean government until japanese surrender in 1945. korea's march 1 movement served as inspiration for china's own may 4th uprisings against the japanese. today, march 1st or sam-il (3-1) is observed as one of korea's first widespread uprisings against japan's oppressive colonial rule. since 1949, samil undong (삼일 운동) has been a national holiday.

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