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What Happened in Jeju?: the 100th Anniversary of March 1st Movement
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승인 2019.03.01  14:21:21
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▲ A mass of protesting people shouting independence chants on a street in Seoul. This photo was taken by a foreign missionary in Joseon.

In Jeju, the March 1st Movement started around Jocheon area, the gateway to the island, on March 21, 1919, and lasted four days until March 24th. This is also the most active period for the Movement throughout the nation.

The movement started when Kim Jang-hwan from Jocheon, Jeju, a fourth-year student at Whimoon Private Normal School, returned home with a secret copy of the Declaration of Independence. At the same time, the likes of Kim Si-beom and Kim Si-eun were aware of the nationwide initiation of Joseon’s independence declarations and attempted to organize one in Jeju. They were part of the traditional Yurim, the local Confucian scholars, who were influenced by Cheoksaron — anti-foreign philosophical trend championed by Choe Ik-hyun, a thinker who was exiled to Jeju in 1873 (10th year of Gojong’s rule). They were also brothers of Kim Si-u, the direct disciple of Kim Hui-jeong, the leading Neo-Confucian scholar of the day in Jeju who was trained by Choe. Kim Si-hak, another sibling of the family, was engaging in the anti-Japanese resistance movement in Seoul.

Along with Kim Eung-bin and Kim Eung-jeon, they formed the central elements of the Jocheon Kim Clan, the traditional yangban powerhouse in Jocheon area. Kim Si-hak, during his studies in Japan, had been participating in the Fraternal Association of Korean Students in Japan with Kim Myeong-sik. This is when he befriended Sin Ik-hui, the president of the Association. In 1917, Kim Si-hak visited Sin and the affiliates to propose Joseon’s independence movement after the first World War, when Japan’s power was certain to dwindle. Taking heed, Song Jin-man, Im Yeong-hyo, and others formed a secret conference across social classes to aspire Joseon’s independence. When the Great War ended, these movements evolved into the nationwide March 1st Movement.

Since Kim Si-hak’s suggestion in 1917 provided impetus for the development into March 1st Movement, it is not an exaggeration to say that Kim was the initial inciter. However, his actions afterwards are not identified, aside from participating as one of the directors with Lyuh Woon-hyung when “Joseon Nonginsa (Joseon Farmer’s Company)” was established in Nov. 1927.

▲ The Declaration of Independence recited by thirty-three national representatives on at the Movement on March 1, 1919. Collection from Independence Hall of Korea

Around March 17, 1919, Kim Si-beom, Kim Si-eun, and Kim Jang-hwan gathered at Maemochi (also called Mimit Hill) in Jocheon-ri to propose an insurgence, then went on to call upon comrades. The mission had to progress extremely cautiously. By March 19, fourteen comrades were collected.

They agreed to begin the uprising on March 21. Most March 1st Movements across the country used market days, as protestors could disguise themselves as sellers to conceal their movement, and it was easy involve the sellers who gathered from nearby areas to prompt a huge protest.

However, the insurgence in Jocheon did not fall on a market day. Instead, it was the anniversary of Kim Si-u’s death, a highly respected yurim in Jeju. Since most of the leaders were direct or collateral descendants of Kim Si-u, the date was likely convenient for their meeting.

In preparation, Kim Hyeong-bae was in charge of creating four large Taegukgi, the Korean flag, and Kim Si-beom, Kim Hyeong-bae, and Baek Eung-seon created 300 smaller flags.

The protest occurred four times consecutively between March 21 and 24. The first demonstration started at Mimit Hill in Jocheon with 150 people, including the fourteen leaders, on the 21st. Kim Pil-won, one of the fourteen, wrote “Korean Independence” on paper with blood and shouted chants as he marched from the west of the police station to the east, where the protesters gathered. About 500 locals followed him to Mmit. Around 3 PM, the protest crowd fixed the Korean flag and raised it high, Kim Si-beom recited the Declaration of Independence, and they chanted for independence at Kim Jang-hwan’s lead. The march spanned from Mimit Hill to Jocheon Headstone Street.

To expand the demonstration, the leaders continued the march inside downtown. In Sinchon-ri, they ended up confronting the police. Because Jocheon police could not keep the crowd at bay, they requested reinforcement from the Jeju station. Soon, 30 officers arrived, resulting in a clash that led to three injured and thirteen arrested.

On the 23rd, the third demonstration demanded the release of the arrested, led by the likes of Baek Eung-seon, Kim Yeon-bae, and Yi Mun-cheon. In particular, Yi Mun-cheon commanded about 100 people to march toward Hamdeok-ri. When they arrived, their locals including the youth joined the protest, amounting to 800 and expanding even more thereafter. Yi, Baek, and six more were apprehended as the result, which included a woman who ardently shouted, “Korean Independence, let us die together.” According to some witnesses, she was Yi Gwi-dong from Sinheung-ri.

The fourth demonstration on March 24 was on the market day (Feb. 23 in lunar calendar) in Jocheon. As mentioned, market days are convenient for initiating demonstrations as many people gather. That day, Kim Yeon-bae led a group of 1,500 crowd to demand the release of the arrested and chanted for Korean independence. A significant number of women who were shopping at the market likely joined the event. However, four people including Kim Yeon-bae were arrested this time, which led to the apprehension of all the initial fourteen leaders of the movement. The movement came to a close.

The particularity of Jeju’s March 1st Movement is that the first day of demonstration did not fall on a market day, but the memorial anniversary of Kim Si-u, one of the most renowned yurim in the area. It reflects the influence of yurim in the Movement. Also, the first location was Mimit Hill, where the community’s religious shrine was located and considered a holy site by the locals. It was critical for being selected as the place to recite the Declaration. Afterwards, the Movement unfolded in Jocheon’s market for the ease of mobilizing people.

The March 1st Movement is a non-violent chant demonstration of Koreans during Japanese occupation against Japan’s colonization, which declared the invalidity of Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty and Korea’s independence on March 1, 1919. It is also called March 1st Revolution, or Kimi Independence Movement, as the protest occurred in the year of Kimi in Chinese zodiac calendar. The direct impetus came when King Gojong’s death was rumored to be from poisoning, and it started on the day of his funeral service (March 1) all over the Korean Peninsula.
The leaders of the Movement are called “thirty-three national representatives,” or sometimes “forty-eight national representatives” when adding those who prepared for the Movement directly and indirectly. They were all imprisoned or put on a trial after the Movement ends unsuccessfully. The demonstrations continued for about three months, and the Government-General cracked down massively.
According to the Government-General’s official records, about 1.06 million peopled joined the rallies. Number of deaths totaled 7,509 and over 47,000 were imprisoned.
The March 1st Movement became the historical origin of today’s government of Republic of Korea. Inspired by the Movement, the Provisional Government was established the next month on April 11, in Shanghai, China. Following the Movement, the Government-General, which had enforced hardline military rule, shifted their policy to cultural rule, a scheme to create national divide.
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