|A statue of Yu Gwan-sun at Yu Gwan-sun Martyr Mermorial Hall in Cheonan|
|/Photography from cafe.cha.go.kr/brd/viewClubBrdArt|
Japanese colonial rule: fights for independence
In 1910, the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty was signed by Korean national traitors and representatives of Japan. After the treaty, Korea had to go through severe hardships. In 1945, Korea became liberated from colonial rule, when Japan surrendered in the Pacific War.
There were a lot of efforts from various people who worked for Korea’s independence. In 1911, Yi Hoi-young and his five brothers, established Shinheung Military School in Manchuria with their own fortune. The school aimed to develop individuals who would devote themselves to achieve national independence and to lead the country after the independence. In the movie, Assassination (2015), Chu Sang-ok, one of the characters, was from Shinheung Military School. Shinheung Military School students were also dispatched to the battle of Cheongsanri. The battle ended in a victory for Korea despite the military superiority of the Japanese.
The film Assassination (2015) reminded viewers of patriots who fought for Korea’s Independence but were not well known. In 1919, Kim Won-bong, one of the students from Shinheung Military School, organized a group called Uiyeoldan. Uiyeoldan dispatched martyrs and they bombed places where Japan used to abuse and exploit Korea.
Female independence fighters who had not been noted were also brought into the spotlight. A representative figure is Nam Ja-hyun. She made a great contribution to Korea’s independence movement by taking care of the army for national independence physically and spiritually and by carrying out military operations. An Ok-yun, the main character of Assassination (2015), was an invented character inspired by the story of Nam Ja-hyun.
Problems not solved
It has been 70 years since Korea regained its independence. However, many problems still remain. The current Japanese government denies the barbarism Japan committed during the Japanese Colonial Rule and is trying to distort history.
One of the most prominent problems is about Korean comfort women in wartime during Japanese Colonial Rule. Starting from the Manchurian Incidents in 1931 to the Pacific War, Japan forced Korean young women into “comfort women (sexual slavery).” The number of comfort women at that time is estimated at from 80 thousand to four hundred thousand. Professor Han Cheol-ho from Department of History Education of Dongguk University said, “The abuse of Korean women as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers was an offense against humanity.” However, Shinzo Abe, current Japanese Prime Minister, does not admit the fact Japan did such atrocious acts. Comfort women are struggling to reveal the truth and receive formal apology of Japan. However, time just keeps passing, and the number of victims who are alive today is only 47.
Next, Japan has attempted to claim Dokdo which has been Korean territory for about 2,000 years. Japan’s basis of assertion is that Japan registered Dokdo as Japanese territory in 1905 because it was an ownerless land at that time. However, historical documents show Dokdo has been Korean territory. Professor Han said, “In 1696, An Yong-bok insisted that Dokdo is Joseon territory, and Japan acknowledged it and forbade Japanese from trespassing on Dokdo. Besides, the geography from the Annals of King Sejong and clause 41 from the edict of Korean Empire prove Dokdo is Korean territory.”
"Young Generation Trying to Defend History"
|Members of Peace Butterfly Network are doing campaign in the street fair. /Photograph by You Eun-sun|
As independence activists struggled to defend Korea, there are still meaningful movements to protect the truth about Japanese colonial rule and Korean Independence.
Last August 13th, Peace Butterfly Network held a street fair to alert people to issues about Korean comfort women in wartime. Peace Butterfly Network is a union consisting of university students to solve problems about Korean comfort women. University students had events and sold products to raise fund and to inform about the issue. Butterfly stands for “spirit” and “flying freely.” Members in this union call comfort women “butterfly” and also want to be butterflies and fly with them. At first, this union was formed in 2013 to host Peace Butterfly Concert, and then in 2014, changed to a more organized group for effective activities. They hold a concert, fairs, and demonstrations annually to inform about this issue and study the history of the comfort women. One of the members of Peace Butterfly Network, Ahn Seo-yeon, studying curatorial studies at Dongduk Women’s University said, “We, university students, proceed with projects for ourselves. Sometimes that is a little tough, but I am feeling more and more responsibility to solve the problem about the history as a youth.” The representative of the Seoul chapter of Peace Butterfly Network, Park Eun-hye, said, “I have met comfort women and they say that Japan are waiting for their death and the day when nobody will remember them. I believe that young generation is interested in this issue, and being a part of this movement is very important because we can keep doing something to solve historical problems.”
There are also activities to protect Dokdo. Voluntary Agency Network of Korea (VANK) is trying to promote about Korea around the world. Among those projects, one of the key campaigns is letting the world know that Dokdo belongs to Korea. VANK runs Cyber Dokdo Academy and recruits “Digital Dokdo Student Diplomats.” Students chosen as a diplomat produce UCCs showing Dokdo as a part of Korean territory and why Dokdo belongs to Korea. VANK also selected some students as “VANK prkorea translators.” They translated promotional materials including information about Korea such as Dokdo into languages other than English because promotional materials in other languages are so rare. The leader of these translators, Lee Ju-yeon, majoring Department of Scandinavian Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies said, “Japan attempts to stamp ‘Takeshima’ on people around the world by sailing an aircraft carrier out. On the other hand, Korea tends to sit on its hands about Dokdo. It is necessary to concentrate human resources to defend Dokdo.”
Independent Korea has had its 70th anniversary of freedom thanks to those who worked to change history. And, history still survives by young generation remembering what happened and working to keep this memory alive.
You Eun-sun firstname.lastname@example.org
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