Korean Independence Day–광복절 (Gwangbokjeol)

Well, my plan had been to remind everyone a week or so ago that August 15 is Korean Independence Day. Sorry to say, that didn’t happen. But I thought I’d share some thoughts about the day, even if it’s too late to encourage you to celebrate.

On this date in 1945 Japan surrendered to the Allied forces during World War II, thus ending the Japanese occupation of Korea. Then on this day three years later in 1948, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) was officially established.

Our family spent the day at an event hosted by our local Korean association. The day was beautiful and sunny–the perfect setting for a celebration. (Unlike last year when it poured rain and many of the festivities had to be cancelled because they were outdoor-only activities, like a volleyball tournament.) We enjoyed lots of Korean food, heard the Korean national anthem and a celebratory song about the day, did three cheers of “Mansei,” which is like the English hurrah, saw a performance of Korean drummers (drumming is one of J’s fascinations so he loved this), and visited with Korean-Americans from our area.

But for me, it’s also a day to reflect on our son’s first family. Having read several histories about the Japanese occupation of Korea and Korea’s liberation, I wonder about his family’s experience. Were they originally living in what is now North Korea? Were they separated from family members during the Korean War? Did they lose sons, uncles, grandfathers during the fighting?

And I wonder if these are questions J will ask when he’s older. Will he wonder about his family’s experiences? They are questions that may never be answered. But I know that may not stop him from wondering. It doesn’t stop me.

Every year the Korean association invites our local Korean War veterans to the Independence Day celebration. Because, as everyone knows, the fight for the Korean penisula didn’t end with the establishment of an official government in South Korea. In 1950 North Korea invaded the South and a three-year battle ensued with each side at one time or another taking almost the entire penisula for themselves, before things settled back with a division at the 38th parallel and cease fire between the two countries.

A few years ago I met a Korean War vet and thanked him for his service. He then thanked me because he said most people don’t think much about the service these men gave or appreciate it. So it’s wonderful to see these men recognized each year at our local celebration. It is easily to see that the two communities–Korean American and the veterans–have such an affection for each other.

So today, I’m thankful for Korea’s independence and thankful to all who helped bring it about. I pray that someday the people in North Korea will experience the same freedoms that those in South Korea now have. And that the country will be one again.

1 Response to “Korean Independence Day–광복절 (Gwangbokjeol)”

  1. 1 Nancy Lee
    September 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    This website doesn’t tell me a lot about the independence of Korea. You should tell when it was, what about it how it happened, the events, and how Korea changed (north and south).

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My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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