▶ 삼일 운동 백주년 기념 경운 장학회 주최 제9회 영어 웅변대회 수상작- Finalist
This year, Korea is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the March First Movement. Also known as the Samil Movement for its historical date on March 1, 1919, this was one of the first public displays of resistance during the Japanese occupation. The movement was started by 33 leaders who came up with a Korean “Proclamation of Independence”. They hoped that Japan would be pressured to end their colonial rule in Korea. The leaders had the proclamation read by co-conspirators all over the country, which spread word of the movement to civilians.
The following year resulted in more than 1,500 demonstrations, with nearly a total of 2 million people participating in the independence movement. In an attempt to suppress the movement, the Japanese turned to violence. Records indicate that about 7,000 people were killed by the Japanese police and soldiers, 16,000 were wounded, and approximately 46,000 people were arrested, 10,000 of which were tried and convicted. Additionally, 715 private houses, 47 churches, and 2 school buildings were destroyed by fire. This movement impacted Korean society in that Korea was exposed to the customs of other countries, as well as aspects of a more modern society. Students and women played a unique role in the March First Movement, as a great number of protesters were students and women. Some are even known as heroic freedom fighters.
In January of 1919, the New Korea Youth Association founded in order to meet with world leaders and come up with ways of gaining Korean independence. This prompted a new student organization to form in Tokyo, called the Korean Youth Independence Corps. On March 5, 1919, high school students were due back at school after the demonstration, but none showed up. At 9 a.m., hundreds of boys came out of shops and alleyways in front of the Seoul Railroad Station, shouting for independence. Girls joined the march as the protestors made their way through the city gate toward the palace. According to missionary reports, they got about half a mile before the march was cut short by Japanese police.
Consequently, the demonstrations quickly turned into a nation-wide protest movement, which had never happened in all of Korea’s history. Students played a significant role in the March First Movement, as they actively participated in protesting the Japanese occupation even though the police and military tried to stop them with violence. The students organized their own protests and stood up for Korean independence.
Among the 19,525 recorded arrests associated with the March First Movement, 471 were women. One of those arrests was Yu Gwan-sun, who is now a well-known freedom fighter. At the time of the movement, Yu attended Ewha Haktang in Seoul, a school founded by an American missionary as the first modern educational institution for women in Korea. Yu and some of her classmates participated in the protest on March 1st. Additionally, Yu joined the student demonstration on March 5th aforementioned. A few days after the colonial government ordered schools closed, Yu smuggled a copy of the Declaration of Independence to her hometown, Cheonan, where she spread word of the movement and encouraged local residents to organize their own protests. On April 1st of the same year, 3,000 people gathered Aunae Marketplace to peacefully protest.
However, the Japanese police arrived and fired at the crowd, killing 19 people. Yu’s parents were among the dead. When You complained that it wasn’t right for the military to suppress the people’s right to protest, they arrested her. Even in prison, Yu continued to openly support the movement and advocate the release of other prisoners. At the time of the movement, obedience and chastity was expected of women. However, the role women played in the movement allowed them to gain political consciousness and speak up for the women’s movement. Additionally, women such as Yu Gwan-sun were critical in helping to spread the word and organize protests for the movement.
The Samil Movement arguably both failed and succeeded. Korea was not able to secure independence until the end of World War II in 1945. However, this movement was significant in strengthening national unity. People were given an opportunity to come together based on a common cause. Additionally, the movement resulted in the rejection of a monarchy. The royals weren’t associated with the protests, and after the end of the Japanese occupation, Korea adopted a presidential system.
The March First Movement was a pivotal moment in Korean history, as it allowed for many developments in government, civil rights, and independence. The movement had a very significant impact on Korean society and paved the way for an independent Korea. Back then, the Samil Movement was hope that Korea would be freed from the Japanese occupation. Now, as a national holiday in Korea, the Samil Movement serves as a reminder of the brutality Koreans faced because of the Japanese and stands for an important time in Korean history when people came together under a common cause.
<Lauren Jun (9th Grade Townsend Harris HS