Monday, March 1, 2010

March 1, Independence Day

Korean Independence Day is referred to as Sam-il-nal, translated "3.1 Day". Three-one day refers to March as "three", the third month of the year, and One as the first day of the month. Obviously this day follows the solar calendar, which Korean officially borrowed in the Kapo Reforms of 1894-5 but didn't officially follow until later. Specific days in the war are commonly referred to by the solar month and day when that event occurred, for example, the Korean War began on June 25, 1950, and so it's referred to as the 6.25 War.

March 1 commemorated the March 1st Movement in 1919 when Koreans nationwide demonstrated peacefully for independence from the Japanese who had occupied their country and colonialized it since 1910. The Koreans were able through word-of-mouth to spread the time, date and place of peaceful gathering to voice their collective sentiments against being colonized. The Japanese were taken by surprise but not for long. They struck out to slaughter the peaceful demonstrators and then began arrests of all known people who had participated in the demonstrations. What began as an independence statement for their country initiated more Japanese reforms and suppression which lasted until 1945 when the the Japanese were finally thrown out of the peninsula.

Now, like U.S. citizens on the 4th of July, few citizens reflect on the blood price their national forebears gave so that Korean could be a free nation today. Now March 1 is a national holiday for rest and relaxation. For high school and university students, the March 1 holiday simply gives students one more day of holiday before the school year officially begins.

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