President Moon Jae-in stated that he will make today (March 1, 2018) a starting point of an era of perpetual peace on the Korean peninsula on the occasion of the 99th anniversary of Korean independence movement which took place on the March 1, 1919 against the illegal occupation of the Korean peninsula by the then Japanese Empire.
President Moon made the declaration speaking at a meeting held at a former Japanese-controlled prison site in Seoul marking the 99th anniversary of the March 1 Korean Independence Movement.
This statement is largely interpreted as meaning that he is resolved to solve the North Korean nuclear issue by the end of next year.
However, some Korean media found that the Presidential speech also had room for discussion where it concerned the North Korean nuclear weapons issue
On the Korean-Japanese issue regarding the ill-fated Korean ‘comfort women’ conscripted by the Japanese gendarmerie and used as sex slaves for the Imperialist Japanese Army soldiers during World War 2, President Moon said, “It is not proper for the Japanese government to say that ‘it is all over’ in view of the fact that Japan is the assailant.”
President Moon reminded the imperialist Japanese government who conscripted innocent young Korean women and who made them sex slaves to satisfy the carnal desire of the Japanese Imperialist Army soldiers during World War II from 1941 to 1945.
Excerpts from the Samil Independence Day speech of President Moon follow:
My fellow Koreans, overseas compatriots, today marks the 99th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement. It is still in our hearts at this moment as a vivid and living memory. Each and every brick of Seodaemun Prison is etched with noble stories of defiance in the face of hardship and death. I feel like I can hear the chants for Korea’s independence now.
Today, we are gathered here to commemorate the living, breathing spirit of this significant day in a historic place of the independence movement; we are not holding just a perfunctory ceremony.
During Japanese colonial rule, approximately 2,600 people were imprisoned in the Seodaemun Prison each year. Up until August 15, 1945, when the country was liberated, nearly 100,000 Koreans had been incarcerated here. Nine out of ten of them were independence activists and so-called “thought offenders.”
From those in their teens to the elderly, from Jeju Island in the south to Hamgyeong Province in the north, they acted for the cause of their country’s independence. Sometimes, a mother and her son, a father and his daughter, and brothers and sisters were put behind bars together.
Countless mothers and wives stayed in the alleys in front of this Prison and looked after their imprisoned children and husbands by working to provide sustenance and sewing clothes for them. Not only the inmates themselves but also their family members were all independence activists.
Ninety nine years ago today, hand-written statements were put up in villages and markets. Copies of the Declaration of Korean Independence were passed from hand to hand. When the Declaration was simultaneously read aloud in all corners of the country, including Seoul, Pyongyang, Jinnampo, Anju, Uiju, Jeongju, Seoncheon and Wonsan, public protests calling for independence started. The independence movement instantly spread to local cities and even small towns and villages. The chants for independence also reverberated in the air in faraway lands, from Jiandao in China and the maritime province in Russia to Philadelphia and Hawaii in the United States.
From March 1 until the end of May that year, as many as 1,542 pro-independence protests took place within the country alone. More than two million people, about one tenth of the then population, took part in them.
Since that time, the experience and memory of the March First Independence Movement became a spiritual foundation for fierce struggle for independence against Imperialist Japan throughout the Japanese colonial period.
After the March First Independence Movement, hundreds of thousands of independence fighters crossed the Amnok River and Duman River every day. They formed the Korean National Association, the Northern Military Administration Office Army, the Greater Korea Independence Army, the Commanding Headquarters of Military Affairs, the Western Military Administration Office Army, the Greater Korea Independence Corps and the Korean Liberation Corps. They engaged in bloody combat with the Japanese military and police. If one fell down, 10 others rose up.
Following in the footsteps of patriotic martyr Ahn Jung-geun, an incalculable number of other patriotic martyrs continued their heroic struggles, including Kang Woo-gyu, Park Jae-hyeok, Choi Su-bong, Kim Ik-sang, Kim Sang-ok, Nah Seok-ju and Lee Bong-chang. Yun Bong-gil’s patriotic deed in Shanghai on April 29, 1932 was the consummation of such struggles.
In 1937 alone, as many as 3,600 large- and small-scale armed independence activities occurred within the country. In 1940, the Korean Provisional Government founded the Korean Liberation Army, the first regular military forces of the Republic of Korea. All of them are the founding fathers of the Republic of Korea.
Yu Gwan-sun, one of Korea’s patriotic martyrs, led a pro-independence protest in Aunae marketplace in Cheonan and lost her life at 18 in a solitary underground cell due to torture and malnutrition. Another patriotic martyr Dong Pung-shin participated in an independence protest in Myeongcheon, Hamgyeongbuk-do Province and passed away here in Seodaemun Prison at the very young age of 17.
We had other founding mothers who devoted themselves to the establishment of the Republic of Korea with the spirit of the March First Independence Movement; students at Ilshin Girls` School in Busan, who stayed up all through the night to draw the Taegeukgi, the national flag of Korea; patriotic martyr Yoon Hee-soon, the first female head of a volunteer righteous army; upright mother Kwak Nack-won of Korean independence leader Kim Gu; anti-Japan activist Nam Ja-hyeon, the mother of independence fighters, who crossed the Amnok River on March 9 right after the March First Independence Movement at the age of 46 to join the Western Military Administration Office Army; patriotic martyr Park Cha-jeong, who led the female students’ pro-independence protest by the Korean Women’s League and sought asylum in China to engage in the activities of the Heroic Corps; independence activist Jeong Jeong-hwa, who crossed the border six times to supply the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai with independence campaign funds.
The intensity of our forefathers’ fight for independence was unparalleled in the world. National liberation was not given simply from the outside. It was the result accomplished by our forebears who risked their lives to fight together to the very last moment.
The most significant achievement of the March First Independence Movement was the establishment of the Korean Provisional Government according to the Declaration of Korean Independence.
The Constitution of the Korean Provisional Government, which was founded through the March First Independence Movement, stipulated that the Republic of Korea was a democratic republic and that the sovereignty of the nation resided in the people. These became the Article 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea.
It was none other than the March First Independence Movement that enabled our forefathers to proceed toward a democratic republic, surmounting monarchy and the colonial rule of Imperialist Japan.
When the March First Independence Movement waned, the sovereign people rose up again. Independence movement was not only for patriotic activists. Merchants waged a movement to close markets. Our ordinary fathers and sisters—woodcutters, gisaeng (female entertainers), the visually impaired and miners—took the lead. The aspirations for the sovereignty of the people, freedom, equality and peace became a part of everyday life of each individual. They went beyond the barriers of class, region, gender and religion and stood tall as individual citizens. It was the March First Independence Movement that helped establish the Republic of Korea as a democratic republic where the public are the owners of the country.
The Korean Provisional Government bequeathed Article 1 of the Constitution and the name of our country as well as the national symbols of the Taegeukgi and the national anthem. This is why our Constitution clearly states that the Republic of Korea upholds the cause of the Provisional Republic of Korea Government.
Last winter, we took a lesson from the events of one century ago. We managed to revive the history of popular sovereignty that had been initiated by the March First Independence Movement. In the most peaceful and magnificent manner, 17 million candles held up high made it possible for that history to unfold. Each light that brightened up the darkness declared once again that each individual was the sovereign owner of the Republic of Korea. The new history of popular sovereignty has begun to be written again as we approach the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea.
My Administration and I will remain firmly committed to safeguarding our country, which was able to start anew thanks to the candlelight rallies, as one of popular sovereignty. We will make efforts to incorporate the spirit of the March First Independence Movement and the lives of the independence activists into the mainstream of the history of the Republic of Korea.
The Korean Provisional Government memorial, which is scheduled to be opened in 2020, will house the countless stories of our forefathers who devoted themselves to the founding of the Republic of Korea. Woodcutters, miners and gisaeng, who participated in the March First Independence Movement, will be recorded as our proud independence fighters.
We will continue to identify the historic sites of the independence movement and the traces of the independence fighters that have yet to be found in Korea and elsewhere. The headquarters of the Liberation Army in Chongqing will be restored in time for the 100th anniversary of the Provisional Government.
We have a huge root in the form of the March First Independence Movement. It is the root of the nation that brought liberation and popular sovereignty. We have great ancestors who engaged in the independence movement and established a democratic republic as well as the second and third generations, born after the founding of the country, who escaped absolute poverty and achieved economic development and democracy. There are also numerous candles that illuminated the path we walk along together in this era.
We no longer need to undervalue ourselves. We have a proud history of achieving independence on our own. We are capable of accomplishing peace for ourselves.
With the capability and confidence of the people, I will turn the March First Independence Movement and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea into a new starting line for the establishment of a permanent peace regime and prosperity based on peace.
To this end, we need to set past wrongs right by ourselves. Dokdo Island is our land that was appropriated first in the process of Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula. It is our indigenous territory. Japan’s current denial of this fact is no different from rejecting self-reflection of the imperialistic invasion.
To resolve the comfort women issue, the Japanese Government, the perpetrator, should not say the matter is closed. The issue of a crime against humanity committed in time of war cannot be closed with just a word. A genuine resolution of unfortunate history is to remember it and learn a lesson from it.
Japan must be able to squarely face the truth of history and justice with the universal conscience of humanity. I hope Japan will be able to genuinely reconcile with its neighbors on which it inflicted suffering and will walk the path of peaceful coexistence and prosperity together. I do not demand any special treatment from Japan. I just hope that as the geographically closest neighboring country, it will be able to move forward toward the future together based on sincere self-reflection and reconciliation.
Fellow Koreans, overseas compatriots,
We have confirmed here today that by turning the March First Independence Movement into a vivid, living memory, the power of the people can make peace on the Korean Peninsula possible.
As we approach the hundredth year of our independence movement, we need to achieve a peace community and an economic community on the Korean Peninsula for the years to come. We need to make sure that the division of the Korean Peninsula will no longer be an obstacle to peace and prosperity. I propose to the people today that we achieve this goal together.
Let us create a country completely free from disparities based on wealth, gender, education and region, as well as the discrimination that has resulted from them. Let us move forward to build a cultural powerhouse that leads world peace - the land which independence leader Kim Gu once dreamed of.
The huge root of the March First Independence Movement will never wither. A fair and just country already started growing in the hearts of the people 99 years ago.
The huge root will cultivate the strong tree of peace and prosperity on the Peninsula. The Republic of Korea will be one of the greatest and most beautiful countries in the world.