The March 1st Movement and Korea's Long Fight for Independence
Over 7,000 Koreans were massacred by Japanese officers, and over 45,000 were arrested in the fight for a free Korea--still not entirely finished.
March 1 is the anniversary of the day in 1919 when Koreans read the Korean Declaration of Independence and intensified the struggle against Japanese imperialism. On that day and in the following weeks and months and years, Koreans across the whole peninsula, as well as those in exile in the US and China, would stage demonstrations, wage guerrilla warfare, and engage in assassinations in an attempt to liberate their country.
I write in an upcoming article:
On March 1, 1919, thousands of Koreans gathered in Pagoda Park to hear Chung Jae-yong read the Korean Declaration of Independence, declaring their freedom from Imperial Japan. Japanese military police swarmed the assembly and assaulted attendees.
The Korean people fought back, organizing protests and sabotage efforts across the country. This was the beginning of the March 1 Movement, one of the great anti-colonialism movements in Asian history. While it didn’t cause Japan to end its occupation, the Korean people’s courageous resistance did cause Japan to relax its totalitarian policies, slow down the advance of Japanese colonial expansion, and serve as a rallying cry for Koreans who eventually were liberated and for peoples resisting colonialism throughout Asia.
The March 1 Movement was a decentralized mass movement. Across the country and over multiple months, more than two million Koreans took part in over 1,000 civic actions. Historian Park Eun-sik documented that over 7,000 Koreans were massacred by Japanese officers, and over 45,000 were arrested for exercising their right to protest peacefully.
When I lived in Cheonan, I visited the birth place of one of the martyrs, Yu Gwan-sun, who saw her parents gunned down and was herself tortured in prison just for lead a flag-waving assembly. You can watch the video I filmed about visiting her hometown.
Now South Korea is no longer colonized, but Korea is divided, and the 26 million Koreans north of the 38th parallel are oppressed in ways unfathomable.
Many Koreans wish to have their own independent nuclear weapons program to defend themselves and deter Kim Jong-Un’s aggression. Seong-Chang Cheong (@softpower21), Senior Research Fellow and Director of Department of Reunification Strategy Studies at the Sejong Institute, does not want South Korea to be independent from the US alliance. But he does want the ROK to have an indigenous nuclear program. He argues that would make South Korea more secure, make the region more secure, and put pressure on North Korea to actually come to the bargaining table.
Cheong published an article in Korean in the Washington Korea Times making his case
and he shared with me a paper he wrote in English on the matter.
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The US-Korea Policy Project is a one-man think tank dedicated to promoting an agenda for peace and freedom in 21st Century Northeast Asia. ___ To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.