This year, 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the 3.1 Independence Movement and Korea Provisional Government. To celebrate the 100th anniversary, The Presidential Commission Centennial Anniversary of 3.1 Independence Movement and Korea Provisional Government (PCCA) has been trying to make the meaning of the 100th anniversary by issuing commemorative coins and stamps or creating a participation yard and so on.
Why do people especially celebrate the 3.1 Movement among other national anniversaries? The Constitution says, ‘We, the people of Korea, proud of a resplendent history and traditions dating from time immemorial, upholding the cause of the Provisional Republic of Korea Government born of the March First Independence Movement of 1919.' This means 3.1 Independence Movement was the starting point for the establishment of the Republic of Korea.
Thus, INDIGO is trying to look at how the 100th anniversary of the 3.1 movement is celebrated in each part of Korea today, how people remember it and whether people are missing something they should remember.
Samiljeol(Independence Movement Day, March 1st, 1919) commemorates the day when the Korean people protested against the Japanese colonial rule and announced the Declaration of Independence. It is notable in that the movement is a nonviolent civil disobedience movement and is recorded as the largest independence movement of the Korean people.
A project that can promulgate of significance about 3.1 movement and Korea Provisional Government is proceeded by PCCA as collecting contents directly made by the people on the subject of ‘100 years together’. Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs hosted ‘The torch of independence’ relay from March 1 to April 11 in 22 regions. Relay runners consisted of a symbolic figure of each area. In Seoul, the parade ended at Boshingak, which was the center of the Movement. Citizen Cho Soo-yeon who shared every journey from torch launching ceremony to Boshingak said, “I could feel the spirit of the patriots who shouted hurrah for their country’s independence. It made me take the 3.1 movement earnestly.”
In the private sector, officials of the civic groups wrote the draft and announced ‘3.1 Independence Movement 100 Years Pan-National Declaration’ inheriting the ‘Declaration of Independence’ with the help of citizens of different political tendencies and gender. The pan-national declaration was very meaningful in that it provided a glimpse into the future in which the Korean Peninsula and the world coexist.
Moreover, Hyunchang Literature Festival for Lee Sang-hwa, a poet who fought against Japan, was held in Daegu to honor the spirit of patriotism and literary achievements. In Seoul and Andong, Opera based on the life of independence activists was produced and performed. Also, the ‘Minguk’ album which is intended to commemorate the honorable spirit of their ancestors was sung by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Choir, Kim Yu-na, and Melomance.
Not only in Korea, but also in Japan, Hong Kong, and Mongolia, Koreans and the people of each country celebrated anniversary through various events like candlelight vigils. Then how about their perceptions of Samiljeol?
In New York, a resolution designating March 1 as 'Yu Gwan-sun Day' was adopted, recognizing the contribution of Yu Gwan-sun as a matter of human rights that people should know. Also, Japanese members of ‘Patriots Yu Gwan-sun mental enhancement association’ performed mental enhancement parade on March 3. Representative Wooda-Etsuko said, “Yu Gwan-sun is not just pride of Korea, but an expression of a patriot who devoted herself to country, and the Japanese should reflect on their past wrongdoings.”
Although the various events are being held in many places, criticisms are arising. “Ideologies of the independence movement is specified in the Constitution, but awareness of the nation-spirit lacks. I hope to promote the movement as the first national movement that took place in colonial countries.” Jun Woo-yong, a professor at the Central Research Institute of Korean Studies, said.
Also, according to PCCA, about 75 percent of the committee’s budget was spent on operating expenses and one-off promotional expenses. Lee Ik-joo, president of the Korean History Research Association, said, “I worried that the event-driven projects might result in a sudden diminution of the public’s attention.”
Besides, poorness of treatments for the descendants of independence patriots continues to emerge. Respectful treatments for descendants of independence patriots guaranteed by law: medical services, education protection, compensation, pension, living allowances, housing priority distribution, and settlement support. Nevertheless, according to the report, ‘Analysis of the Living conditions of the Bereaved families of patriots’, nearly half of the descendants do not have long-term means of living and the percentage of people who do not receive any pension reached 41.1 percent. Because many are in blind spots of the law, such as not being registered as descendants of patriots or treating only one of the siblings of descendants.
As such, anniversary ceremonies are one-off event every year, and the treatment of independent patriots and their descendants are becoming increasingly inferior. This year, the government awarded an additional first-class medal for Patriotic martyr Yu Gwan-sun. It was the first time in 57 years after the third-class medal was awarded to Yu Gwan-sun in 1962. Her achievement had a low medal despite being never light compared to Kim gu, Ahn Chang-ho. President Moon Jae-in said, "The fact that Yu Gwan-sun is a symbol of the independence movement is highly qualified as a first-class medal, and I hope the significance of the independence movement could be increased through this conferment.".
Proper treatment of the independence patriots and right evaluation of the independence movement will be helpful in building a righteous country. As the famous saying of Sin Chae-ho goes, "There is no future for a nation that has forgotten its history," wouldn't it be important to discover heroes hidden in history and treat them appropriately for their hard work?
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