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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Masan Uprising in Gyeongja Year (1960): Catalyst of April Revolution


Masan Uprising (Hangul/Hanja/Romanization: 3.15마산시위/3.15馬山示威/Sam-shiboh Masan Shiwi or Sam-ir-oh Masan Shiwi) is a protest in March 15th 1960 against the electoral corruption of Syngman Rhee (1875-1965), the founding president of the Republic of Korea. Led by local students, the March 15 Uprising of 1960 played an instrumental role in overthrowing Rhee's autocratic rule.

Government forces in Masan (present-day Changwon MasanHappo-gu and Changwon MasanHoewon-gu), Southern Gyeongsang Province, South Korea, arrested students protesting against rigged elections. Although President Syngman Rhee's re-election to a fourth term had been ensured when his opponent died of an illness, separate elections for Vice-President would determine the 85-year old Rhee's successor. With the aid of government measures, including the stuffing of ballot boxes, Rhee's running mate, Lee Gibung, officially received 79.2% of the votes in what was expected to be a close race against opponent Chang Myon. Over the next weeks, students in other cities followed the example of Masan, and Rhee was forced to resign.

Protesting the corruption in President Syngman Rhee’s government, and specifically a rigged vice-presidential election, a thousand citizens in Masan gathered in front the ruling party’s campaign office.  During the ensuing confrontation with police, the city power was blacked out, and the police shot at protestors, and protestors threw rocks at the police.  

While several people died, the real outrage at the incident came when, on April 11, the body of Masan Commercial High School student Kim Ju-yeol was found on the beach by a fisherman. The official autopsy stated that Kim died of drowning, but suspicious protestors forced their way to the body in the hospital, finding Kim to have died from the impact of a tear gas container on his skull. This revelation was publicized in major Korean newspapers, along with a graphic photo.

The outrage was felt nationwide, and is credited with being the catalyst for a national protest known as the April Revolution. Eventually, protests grew larger and larger, and by the end of April, President Rhee resigned, escaping via a CIA airplane to live in Hawaii in exile. However, the vice-president Lee Gibung (winner of the fraudulent election) committed suicide with his family.

The 3.15 National Cemetery (Hanja: 國立3.15民主墓地) is dedicated to the spirits of the fallen patriots who fought against oppose of unfair election of corrupted and long-term power plot of the former dictatorial government of President Syngman Rhee and to pay a tribute to a loft will which was a blasting fuse for 3.15 Movement and to succeed the spirit of Masan citizens who admire freedom, democracy and justice.

Located at Guam-dong san 92-beonji - it overlooks Masan from the side of the mountain behind the Hite factory in Changwon MasanHoewon-gu.  In addition to the cemetery, there is a large monument as well.  Unrelated, but behind the complex is an impressive collection of craggy rocks to navigate, and eventually it hooks up with a hiking trail. Depending on the season, this back area can be very overgrown.

It is a place to respect and pay tribute to praise noble souls of those who died for the country and a place to practice historical education of demonetization that should be hand down the spirit of 3.15 Movement which was a safeguard for civil right to the future generation. It is a sacred precinct for the entire citizens to worship.