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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Yu Gwan-sun, Main Role of Samil-Manse Independence Movement

Yu Gwansun (Hangul/Hanja: 유관순/柳寬順; Born: December 16th 1902 - Died: September 28th 1920) was an organizer in what would come to be known as the March 1st Movement against the Japanese colonial rule of Korea in Southern Chungcheong Province. In 1919, Yu Gwansun was a student at Ewha Womans University's high school in Seoul, where she witnessed the beginnings of the March 1st Movement. Her deep faith in God and the teachings from the Methodist Ehwa School gave her the courage to act boldly. When the school went into recess, following an order by the Japanese government closing all Korean schools, she returned to her home in Jiryeong-ri (nowadays 18-2 YuGwansun Saengga-gil, Yongdu-ri 338-1 beonji, Byeongcheon-myeon, Cheonan Dongnam-gu, Southern Chungcheong).

There, along with her family, she began to arouse public feeling against the Japanese occupation. She also planned a demonstration for independence, which included people from some neighboring towns, Yeongi, Chungju, and Jincheon. The demonstration was scheduled to start on the first lunar day of March 1919 at 9:00 a.m. in Awunae Marketplace. About 2,000 demonstrators shouted, "Long live Korean Independence!" ("대한독립만세"). The Japanese police were dispatched at around 1:00 p.m. that same day, and Yu was arrested with other demonstrators. Both of her parents (Yu Jung-kwon and Yi Soje) were killed by Japanese police during the demonstration.

Yu served a brief detention at Cheonan Japanese Military Police Station, and then she was tried and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment at Seodaemun Prison in Seoul. During her sentence, Yu Gwansun continued to protest for the independence of Korea, for which she received harsh beatings and diverse, extremely severe forms of torture at the hands of Japanese officers. 

She died in prison on September 28, 1920, reportedly as the result of torture. Her final words were, "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."

The Japanese prison initially refused to release her body, but eventually and reluctantly the prison released her body to Lulu Frey and Jeannette Walter, principals of Ewha Womans School, and only after Frey and Walter threatened to expose this atrocity to the world. Her body was reported to have been cut into pieces, but in fact according to Walter, who dressed her body for funeral, this allegation was false. The body was contained inside an oil crate which was supposed to be returned to Saucony Vacuum Company. The Japanese Authorities did this as a retaliation against the threat from Ehwa School.

She was posthumously awarded the Order of Merit for National Foundation, Independence Medal (건국훈장-독립장/Geon-guk Hunjang-Dongnipjang; 3rd Class) in 1962. The latest flagship Sohn Won-yil U214-Class Submarine, SS-078 ROKS Yu Gwan-sun was commissioned on the 96th Anniversary of Samil-Manse Movement (March 1st 2015), in honor to a schoolgirl behind the Korean Independence Movement. This submarine is the first submarine to be named after a woman in the history of ROK Navy.