Heritage is an important asset in which everyone should value. 2019 marks the 100th year since Koreans protested in a non-violent declaration for the rights of independence.
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 in 1919.
From August 1910 through August 1945, Korea was subjected to imperialism by the Japanese Empire. The Japanese established control using their military base and harsh rulings. During these three and a half grueling centuries, citizens of Korea suffered daily from unfair and cruel treatment while losing their rights as human beings. Any trace of their dissents was ruthlessly crushed. However, before their origins deteriorated under the hands of an invader, Koreans decided to rise and fight before their virtues were lost, forever.
Koreans organized a series of peaceful demonstrations to protest against this colonial rule. Their principal mission was to reclaim their motherland, independence, and identity.
Two significant figures, Ryu Gwansun, and Ryu Yeido, have joined in becoming Korean independence activists at a young age of 16 and 23 during this fight for justice. Their names are currently praised for their actions. Their aspiring story has been accounted for by Ryu Yeido’s great-grandson at an event dedicated to the history of Korea’s independence.
On February 23, 2019, there was an event called March 1st Movement’s 100th Year Anniversary, located at the Oxford Palace Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Its purpose was to educate the younger generations of Korean Americans of the painful patriotic sacrifices our ancestors made. Ryu Yeido’s great-grandson, Dave Young Kim, attended this event as a guest speaker and told his ancestors’ stories.
Dave began, “March 1st, 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 of cries of mansae. For long live Korea.”
“...protest organizers came to Ewha School and encouraged the students to join the demonstration that was to be staged in three days.”
“...the two cousins… had a smuggled copy of the Declaration of Independence. They were young, but they were passionate… They went from village to village spreading word of the March 1st Movement, encouraged local residents to organize their own.”
“Early on April 1st, a fire was lit on the mountaintop and that was the signal telling everyone to organize 3,000 people at this marketplace in this village called, Cheonan. The cousins were there distributing homemade versions of the Korean National Pledge that they had mass- produced and they gave speeches...for independence.”
“The Japanese military arrived… fired on the people… killed 19 people... 2 of those people were Ryu Gwansun’s parents.”
Ryu Gwansun was captured and sentenced to 5 years in Seodaemun Prison in Seoul after being convicted of sedition. Despite being oppressed, she fearlessly continued to support the Korean independence movement.
She spoke out against her Japanese captors and organized a large-scale protest with her inmates on the first anniversary of the March 1 Movement.
Ryu Gwansun and the others prisoners roared, “UNTIL KOREAN INDEPENDENCE, WE WILL FIGHT."
While in prison, Ryu Gwansun declared, “Even if my fingernails are torn out, my nose and ears are ripped apart, and my legs and arms are crushed, this physical pain does not compare to the pain of losing my nation. My only remorse is not being able to do more than dedicating my life to my country.”
Dave continued, “Ryu Gwansun was...tortured...died eventually, less than 2 years later...she was only 17.”
Even under arrest, she never relented her convictions because she was “...able to fight until the very end and that defiance became her legacy.”
“Ryu Yeido was able to escape, however. She was labeled the main instigator and sentenced to prison… She lived in hiding for a decade until she met my great-grandfather… Her relatives arranged her marriage as an effort to protect her… they didn’t think the Japanese would be looking for a married woman...but that didn’t really work and she continued to live in hiding as a fugitive.”
“This, of course, led to my eventual existence and why I’m here today.”
“Ryu Yeido, a living legend to have lived through the entirety of a movement, she was there, but I didn’t know who she was.”
“I finally at 26, started to take hold of my identity. I remember distinctly calling my mom...I asked her all these questions about my family...I was crying and that was the beginning.”
“As an artist, creating aimlessly for a while... I finally discovered...to illustrate the universality of the human condition through...my heartfelt Korean culture.”
“Ryu Gwansun, we see her super bold with killer eyes in mighty statues, but she was just a teenager, she was a kid in high school who was crying for her parents.”
“Ryu Yeido was a 23-year-old college student who stood up for what she believed in. It cost her greatly, she was a fugitive for most of her life.”
“And they were ordinary people like you and me who engage and follow their moral compass decided to take action...change the world around them.”
This mindset opened a new perspective of interest in Dave to learn about his history. This self-realization took years but he says that he is continuously finding himself.
“... I realize the best I can do was work on myself. Know myself to the best of my abilities, figure out who I am, work out my identity...start digging into your family. Learn your history, listen to stories, ask lots and lots of questions. A big part of who you are today is buried in those questions and answers…. takes a lot of time and effort...in the end, you’ll be better for it.”
Knowing one’s heritage is essential for personal growth and connecting to our roots.
People may disregard the values of their pasts, nor the gifts that their generation received from their ancestors to embrace their birthright.