Tapgol Park, located in Jongno, is a very peaceful place where everyone takes a rest in the busy downtown. However, it was once filled with thousands of Koreans waving Taegeukgis (Korean national flag) and striving for Korea’s independence from Japanese rule. Sam Il Jeol (sam meaning three and il meaning one in Korean), originated from the historical independence movement happened in Tapgol park on the first day of March, 1919.
Since the Japanese invasion of 1910, Korea had been under the control of Japan. The Japanese banned the formation of any kind of political organization or assembly with guns and swords, and many who resisted the Japanese occupation met an untimely death, usually after severe torture. Therefore, most movements towards independence were formed in secret.
However, as the First World War came to an end in 1919, a new phase of independence movements in Korea began to emerge. After the war, the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, declared the Fourteen Points including a principle of humanism, and respect for the right of national self-determination. Korean nationalists, who yearned for independence, were motivated by Wilson and thought that respect for nation’s self-determination could act as a good foundation for Korea’s independence. So they went on with the plan to form a national demonstration. The death of the former emperor Kojong on January 22, 1919, provided them with a suitable occasion to advance with their plan. Since many people would be gathering for the King’s funeral and the death has fuelled Korean’s hatred up towards Japan, it was determined to be the best time for the Korean nationalists to hold the first public independent movement.
The date of the demonstrations was advanced to March 1 from March 3, which was the King’s funeral, in order to avoid police discovery. Student intermediaries had been enlisted to organize demonstrations in provincial cities. On March 1, thirty-three “national representatives”-signers of the Declaration of Independence-gathered at a restaurant dispatching copies of Declaration of Independence to people, and notified the police of their intentions. Simultaneously, the declaration was announced by students who supported the independence movement at Tapgol Park.
From that day until May, the 3.1 Independence movement spread all over the country. Thousands of Koreans went out of their houses and shouted Daehan dongnip manse which means, “Independent Korea will last forever” in Korean. Because the 3.1 Independence movement was planned to be unarmed, many Koreans who cried for the independence were injured or killed by the armed Japanese police. Yoo Gwan-soon, an 18 year-old young woman attending Ewha hakdang (the former name of Ewha Woman’s university) bravely demonstrated for independence. However, she was taken to a jail and died as a result of severe torture. During her incarceration, she continued her rebellion against Japanese rule of Korea.
Even though the 3.1 Independence movement failed to entirely rid Korea from the hated Japanese rule, the movement provided a catalyst for the expansion of the nationalist movement to the whole nation. Korea’s strong zeal for independence became widely known to other neighboring countries and triggered their independence movements as well.
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