Friday, March 2, 2012

KOREAN HISTORY: Korean Independence Movement Day (1)

삼일절 (Samiljeol, the First of March or Korean Independence Movement Day)

The New York Times advertisement (03/01/2012) to promote 
tourism in Dokdo islets, Korea, put out by Seo Kyeongdeok and Gmarket 
in honor of Samiljeol or Korean Independence Movement 
(Picture in courtesy of Korea Times 

The first of March, yesterday, is a national holiday in South Korea, which is called Samiljeol (삼일절) or Korean Independence Movement Day, in honor of Samil Undong (삼일운동)1 or the March First Movement  of 1919. It was the day over 2 million Koreans stood up against Japan and its encroachments.  It is also called Samil Independence Movement or Samil Manse Undong or just Manse Undong (만세운동, 萬歲運動).2

Among those (approx.) two million twenty thousand Korean protesters, 7,509 people were killed and about sixteen thousand were wounded by the Japanese force during the protest. Most of the arrestees were imprisoned in Seodaemun Prison3 without trial.  Therein, they suffered grave injury, torture, ill-treatment, and even execution. 

1. Some of the Korean national holidays or historic events/days are customarily named in reference to the dates of their occurrence.  For example, Independence Movement is called Samil Undong, in which sam means “three” (i.e. March), il “one,” and undong “movement or protest,” hence the name literally translates to “Three-One Movement” in reference to March 1, 1919, when the nationwide civil uprising against Japan happened.  Other examples are as follows:

Yugio (yug=6 thus June; io=25)

Sailgu (sa=4 thus April;

Oilyuk (o=5 thus May); ilyuk=26)

Sibiryuk (sib=10 thus October; iryuk=26)

Sibisibi (sibi=12 thus December; sibi=12)

Oilpal (o=5 thus May; ilpal=18)

2.  The word manse literally means “ten thousand years of life” or “live forever,” thus is usually used in hailing or wishing a long life for someone or in cheering just like English “hurray.”  Samil Undong is also called  Samil Manse Undong or Manse Undong because all the Koreans in protest marched hailing Manse meaning “Long live (Korea)!”

3. Seodaemun Prison still stands today as a constant reminder of what Japan had done to Korea.  It is open to tourists or visitors. (I found a website where you can see the pictures of the prison.)

Yesterday, to honor and commemorate all those Samiljeol protesters and victims, Seo Kyoungdeok or Seo Kyeong-duk (서경덕), Dokdo islets advocate and professor at Sungshin Women’s University in Korea, and Gmarket, one of Korea’s leading online auction and retail companies, put out a full-page ad in the New York Times.  Seo has been taking out ads on world’s famous newspapers, mostly in association with Kim Janghun or Kim Janghoon (김장훈), singer, philanthropist, and Dokdo islets advocate, to proclaim Korea's inalienable sovereignty of the islets.  Just like last year when they took out an ad on the Wall Street Journal-Europe, they made the politically savvy move this time as well by failing to shout “Dokdo is Korean Territory!”  Instead, Seo et al have tried to reach the world through sports, tourism, culture, and so on.  

It is quite meaningful and noteworthy that such an ad was put out on Samiljeol, the first of March, 2012, when Japan is still trying to encroach into Korean islets, Dokdo.  (Click for more information about Dokdo: Dokdo Research Institute)

The New York Times Dokdo ad (03/01/2012)

The Wall Street Journal-Europe Dokdo ad (04/26/2011)

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