Walking the Gukje Market on Samil-Jeol

The last day of our trip to Busan was a Samiljeol (삼일절: literally means 1st of March).  Naver dictionary translates it to “Independence Movement Day” but I personally question myself if the word “independence” is the correct term to describe Japan’s defeat and withdrawal from Korean peninsula in 1945.

Korea had its government under the name of Chosun Dynasty before the Japanese invaded and took over from 1910~1945.  After World War II was over, the Japanese retreated and new governments of North and South Korea were formed as the nation got divided in half.  I would consider the period of Japanese invasion was more like occupation than colonial era as Korea was never really part of Japan despite the attempt of colonization.  The duration of occupation was short and happened during WWII when such invasion of similar nature happened in other parts of the world as well.  Instead of calling Samiljeol as “independence movement day”, I think “resistance” or “rebellious movement day” sounds more historically correct.

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Reenactment of 3.1 Independence Movement

As we walked down the streets of Gukje Market in Busan, a group of college students dressed in old clothes were performing what had happened on March 1st, 1919.  Their banner reads “Celebrating 70th Anniversary of Independence – Clear the Pro-Japanese Groups Festival”.

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The students have prepared a lot.  In the middle of the Gukje Market were lists of pro-Japanese groups and their descendants.  Some of them were recognizable politicians including current president Park Geun-hye.

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There were music and dance recapturing the moments of Samiljeol.  Back then, students and citizens protested against the Japanese by hooraying for independence and waving Korean flags.  A speech was also given just like in the past.  I was told that the person who read the declaration of independence was shot and killed by the Japanese army.

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Taegeukgi, the national flag of Korea, were everywhere to commemorate the lost lives of March 1st, 1919.  2015 is the 70th anniversary of Korea’s “independence” from Japanese invasion.  It is important for the new generation to remember the history and I was glad to witness the students taking the lead.

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