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Liberation Day: A Joyous Day for All Koreans

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By Keiko Somatani

This August, Korean people from both sides of the 38th parallel and around the world will celebrate a historic holiday. In South Korea, the Taegukgi waves high above city buildings and in front of homes as ceremonies and festivities occur across the Korean peninsula and the diaspora on August 15th every year. On that historic day in 1945, allied forces liberated the Korean peninsula from Japanese colonial rule. Known as “the day the light returned” to South Koreans, and “Liberation of the Fatherland Day” to North Koreans, the National Liberation Day of Korea is the only public holiday that both North and South Koreans celebrate. Koreans celebrate the independence of their homeland and honor and remember those that dedicated their lives to the independence movement. 

The March First Movement of 1919 emerged in response to the Japanese annexation of the Korean peninsula in 1910, but the dream for a free, independent, and prosperous nation and the hope for establishing lasting peace in Asia and the world was subdued until the liberation in 1945. Unfortunately, the geopolitics of more powerful nations resulted in the continued division of the Korean peninsula, leaving the hopes and dreams of the March First Movement unfulfilled.   

But the dream lives on today.  

One hundred years after the March First Movement, Koreans from the North, South and diaspora, religious and civic leaders, activists, humanitarians, educators and policy experts from around the world gathered in Seoul on March 1st, 2019 to reignite the dream for a unified Korea. The Global Peace Foundation’s Global Peace Convention leading up to the centennial celebration discussed a strategic framework and peaceful path forward to a unified peninsula. 

The 100th anniversary of the historic March First Movement was an important reminder to both Koreans and non-Koreans alike of the power of ordinary citizens coming together in solidarity for a dream. The strength of a nation depends on an active, engaged and responsible citizenry. That important civic engagement and empowerment is growing stronger every day through Action for Korea United, a coalition of over 1,000 civic organizations in South Korea working towards the dream of a unified Korea.

Civic and religious leaders, activists, youth leaders, and policy experts will gather again in Seoul this coming August 15th to not only celebrate the historic milestone that day represents, but also to remind the Korean people—as well as the international community—that work still remains until the day the Korean peninsula is reunified and all Koreans may experience the freedom, peace, and prosperity that much of the world takes for granted. 

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