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.

 

My eminent figure for 2018 is Ryu Gwan Sun. When a call for peaceful protests in support of Korean independence came in spring 1919, a 16-year-old girl named became the face of a nation’s collective yearning for freedom.

Yu Gwan-sun.JPG

Ryu is one of the most praised and remembered martyrs in the journey of Korean independence. Born December 16, 1902, she was one of the only female children in the country to be attending school. Her father always taught her that she must be a proud, confident person in both herself and her identity, that she must enrich herself as much as she could, regardless of gender. Ryu grew, known for being very intelligent, memorizing bible verses after hearing them once or twice.  She attended the Ewha school, today known as Ewha women’s university through a scholarship program that required recipients to work as a teacher after graduation. At the time, few Korean women attended university.[2] In 1919, while she was a student at the Ewha high school,  she witnessed the beginnings of the movement, a fight against Japanese colonization. Gwan sun, along with a five-person group, took part in the movement.

After witnessing the movement, she planned a protest of her own. Ryu and her family tirelessly went around from door to door, handing out Korean flags and encouraging the public to take part in the fight to Korean independence. The demonstration took place on March 1, 1919, in Aunae Marketplace at 9:00 a.m., with approximately 3,000 demonstrators [3] chanting “Long Live Korean Independence!” , or “Daehan Doklip Mansae!”.

By 1:00 p.m, the Japanese military police arrived and fired on the unarmed Korean protesters, killing 19 people which included Yu’s parents.

Gwan sun was arrested.Image result for march first movement

The Japanese military police offered Gwan sun a lighter sentence in exchange for her admission of guilt and her cooperation in finding other protest collaborators. However, she refused to reveal the identity or whereabouts of any of her collaborators. She did not give them any information even after being severely tortured.

In her trial, when asked, “Do you vow to never take part in an independence movement and live as a rightful Japanese woman?”

She answered with “I am a Korean person. Is chanting independence for my country a sin? None of you has a right to sentence me and I do not deserve to be in trial with the Japanese.”

And threw her chair at the judge.

She was then imprisoned and tortured, yet records say that Ryu did not stop yelling “Long Live Korean independence” until the torture killed her. According to records discovered in November 2011, of the 45,000 who were arrested in relation to the protests during that period, 7,500 died at the hands of the Japanese authorities. Ryu was one of them.

During her imprisonment and torture, she said, “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.”

She was a symbol of independence, the story of the young 16-year old that lead and inspired many people to fight for the country.

Growing up as a Korean girl myself, I’ve always been told how Ryu had fought to protect the country, and how we should never forget the horrendous torture and pain our ancestors had to go through for Korea we have today. I realized I knew who Ryu was, not how she lived, and how to she came to become the martyr for Korea. I knew what she did, but I didn’t know her.

I decided to study her for my eminent project this year. I cannot dare say I’m anywhere near brave as she was, but her actions taking initiative, inspiring people of all ages from children to adults moved my heart and are definitely qualities that I want to develop.

From learning how these traits of bravery and courage came to be, I may learn how I can apply them to my life, and how it was applied in her time. I have found many book titles on Ryu and the protests. For my next step in learning, I plan to gain access to some of them and read them, taking notes and if any, differences in information as some of it could’ve been altered if from authors of different origin.