The March First Movement was a number of events that began on March 1, 1919 in Seoul, South Korea and spread throughout the country. The purpose of this movement was to spread awareness to the Koreans and Japanese that Korea was still an independent country.
Korea was being ruled by Japan from 1910-1945. During the first ten years of Japanese rule, Japan’s power over Korea came directly from the Japanese military. This time is known as one of the darkest times in Korean history because of the brutality and torture that the Koreans had to suffer at the hands of the Japanese.
On March 1, 1919, 33 Korean leaders read out loud a Korean “Proclamation of Independence.” The goal of the leaders was to persuade the Japanese government into letting Korea being independent again.
Although the movement spread the word, it came with terrible consequences. After 12 months, the Japanese responded aggressively toward the Koreans, which resulted in about 7,000 Korean deaths. Many Koreans hoped to bring peace to their country by participating in these peaceful demonstrations as it was a way to show Japan that Korea was still independent. Over 2,000,000 Koreans participated in over 1,500 rallies that occurred.
One of the most notable activists of this movement was Yu Gwan Sun. Yu Gwan Sun was a female high school student who strongly believed in the independence of her country. After the Japanese government ordered the closure of all Korean schools due to the protests, Yu returned to her home to help with the protests.
During an independence demonstration that she planned, Yu was captured by the Japanese police while her parents were shot and killed. Even in prison, Yu continued to vocally protest against Japan’s colonial rule over Korea. Because of her actions, she was severely tortured and beaten until she died on September 28, 1920. She was only seventeen years old.
The March First Movement still stands as one of the most historical events in the history of South Korea as many people sacrificed their lives for the independence of their country. It was one of the most powerful actions of Korea’s resistance against the rule of Japan. The March First Movement became a national holiday in South Korea because of sacrifice and bravery of the people who fought for their independence.