On February 23, 2019 an event was held in commemoration of the March 1st Movement 100th Year Anniversary. Located at the Oxford Palace Hotel in Los Angeles, California, it’s purpose was to educate the younger generations of Korean Americans of the painful patriotic sacrifices of their ancestors. Among the special guests was David Young Kim, great-grandson of Ryu Yeido – key player in the movement.
Dave Young Kim began by stating, “March 1, 1919, my great-grandmother, Ryu Yeido, the mother of my maternal grandfather…my mom’s grandmother along with her cousin, Ryu Gwansun, joined others in taking the streets in cries of mansae. For long live Korea.”
The March 1st Movement, also called Sam-Il Jeol, is an important date that is widely celebrated among Koreans. This historical day acts as a reminder of how Korea gained its independence from Japan in 1919.
From August 1910 through August 1945, Korea was subjected to the imperialism of the Japanese Empire. The Japanese established control using their military base and harsh rulings. During these three and a half grueling decades, citizens of Korea suffered daily from unfair and cruel treatment while losing their rights as human beings. Any trace of their dissents were ruthlessly crushed. However, before their origins and virtues were deteriorated and lost forever under the hands of Japanese rule, Koreans decided to rise and fight.
Koreans organized a series of peaceful demonstrations to protest against this colonial rule. Their principle mission was to reclaim their motherland, independence, and identity. And two significant figures, Ryu Gwansun and Ryu Yeido, at the young age of 16 and 23 joined this fight for justice. Praised for being at the center of the fight, their inspiring story has been accounted over and over.
For the rest of Kim’s speech, he emphasized the importance of his Korean identity and the connection he holds with his heritage. “I finally, at the age of 26, started to take hold of my identity,” Kim stated. This mindset opened a new perspective of interest in Dave to learn about his history and this self-realization took years, but he is continuously finding himself.
“I realize the best I can do is work on myself. Know myself to the best of my abilities, figure out who I am, work out my identity.” Kim stated as he wrapped up his speech. In the end, he implored all in attendance to “Learn your history, listen to stories, ask lots of questions because a big part of who are today is buried in those questions and answers.”
Kim’s words resonated as the celebrations continued because knowing one’s heritage is essential for personal growth and connecting to one’s roots. People may disregard the values of their pasts, or the gifts that their generations have received from their ancestors. But, as we remember the March 1st Movement and the legacy it created, we are reminded to also embrace our origins.
Joanne Chae, Grade 9