In a few days, membership of the National Assembly will be decided according to the votes cast by Korean citizens. No single individual or group will have a certain privilege to vote in the April 9 general election; people have equal power to choose their own representatives. Thus, dictators who threaten people’s freedom will not be able to gain power. However, it is not only the suffrage rights that we have to thank, but also the spirit of Koreans on the day of April 19, 1960 marching throughout the country, crying for democratic freedom.
After the liberation from the Japan, the Republic of Korea was founded in 1948. With the support of the United States, Lee Syng-man, an activist for the independence movement, was appointed as the first president. Founded as a democratic country, the country protected democratic freedoms, such as the right to vote and freedom of speech. However, the distorted ambition of Lee and his Liberal Party started to surface and tried to rule the country under their dictatorship.
Lee and his Liberal Party maintained their absolute authority for twelve years. However, at dawn of the 1960s, people started to raise questions about the prolonged rule of one party, and many began to criticize the then current government. Despite the growing discontent, the Liberal Party preceded a rigged election with Lee Syng-man as their candidate. The police, bureaucrats and military, which should be excluded from politics, overtly supported Lee, and candidates from the opposing Democratic Party were restricted from electioneering.
The most villainous act was hiring the Young Anti-communism Association to look after polling booths and permitting it to threaten voters by force. As an obvious result, Lee and the Liberal Party achieved a landslide victory.
Witnessing such violation of freedom, people’s discontent started to transform into signs of revolution. In April, 1960, demonstrations denouncing the illegal election took place at several cities in Korea, but the government announced the public’s wrath as a communists’ movement. Meanwhile, a high school student, Kim Ju-yeol, who also participated in a demonstration at Masan, was later found dead with a tear bomb driven into his eye. His martyr’s death pulled people out into the streets and made them call for Lee’s resignation.
On April 19, a revolution began. Professors and university students marched at the head of the protest and ordinary people followed along from the rear. The streets were filled with people shouting for the overthrow of the dictatorship. Even the military could not suppress the demonstration as the scale of marching protest was so enormous. About 130 were killed and 1000 injured. Two days later, Lee Seung-man resigned and the Liberal Party was disbanded. It was the first and the biggest demonstration advocating democratic freedom in Korea, leaving a mark in Korean history as a revolution.
Nevertheless, the April 19 Revolution was not the full completion of Korea’s democracy. There were many political upheavals and dictatorships after the incident. However, the spirit of April 19, 1960, has never faded and it has become one of the ground stones of democracy and freedom we enjoy today.
저작권자 © Ewha Voice 무단전재 및 재배포 금지