Posted by: rbbadger | March 1, 2009

March 1

Today is March 1, one of the two days in Korea which celebrate Korea’s independence.  Unlike August 15, which celebrates the fall of Japan and the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonisation, March 1 commemorates the early figures in the Korean independence movement.

On March 1, 1919, 33 nationalists met at a restaurant in Seoul and signed a Declaration of Independence.  The declaration was subsequently spread throughout the country and a copy was sent to the Japanese Governor-General.  The Japanese government reacted switfty to subdue the ensuing protests.  Eventually, the Japanese army and navy were called in to help the police who quickly found themselves unable to cope with the protests. 

The vision of an independent Korea was not to come to pass until 1948, at which time the country was permanently and lamentably sundered in twain.  From 1945 until 1948, Korea was under the guardianship of the great powers.  On August 15, 1948, the Republic of Korea, lead by Rhee Syngman, came into being.  A couple of weeks later, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea came into being under the leadership of Kim Il-sung.

So, I suppose that on this occasion, it is appropriate to put up the video of the Korean national anthem.  The music was written by a Korean composer and conductor by the name of Ahn Eak-tai (안익태), one of the first Koreans to compose Western-style music.  Ahn isn’t remembered for much else besides the national anthem.  But it’s not a bad thing to be remembered for.  Before Ahn came along, the text was sung to the tune of “Auld Lange Syne”.  Yes really!

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