Yu Gwansun

A young female Korean independence activist organizer.
Yu Gwansun was a young female Korean independence activist organizer who became contributed significantly to inspiring others to protest for their one freedom. Despite only being 16 years old, she led a powerful protest, shouting “Mansei” or “long live korea,” in the streets along with four of her other classmates, which inspired thousands of other patriotic rallies to take place against Japanese authorities. She was a brave, patriotic soul who didn’t give up her voice to Korean independence despite the brutal punishments who went through in prison. It is estimated that her action inspired over 2 million people to participate in a total of around 2000 pro-independence, 3-1 marches.

Yu Gwansun was born in 1902 near Choenan, a Southern province in Korea. She was a student at Ewha Haktang, the first modern education institution for women established in Korea by the American missionaries. On March 1, 1919, Yu and four of her other classmates took to the streets of Seoul with cries of “Mansei” (“Long Live Korea!”) as a protest against Japanese colonial rule. This single event inspired thousands of others across the nation to join the rallies across the peninsula. Then, the Japanese colonial government, in an attempt to repress the growing protests, ordered all schools to close in March. After her first rally, Yu returned to her hometown and began to spread the word of “Sam-il” (literally 3-1 in Korean) movement, inspiring others to join. On April 1, Yu and her father organized a peaceful protest at Aunae Marketplace in their hometown, drawing 3000 people. There, Yu distributed Korean national flags and gave speeches for independence. The Japanese military fired, killing 19 people, including Yu’s parents. A few weeks later at another rally, Yu was captured and sent to the notorious Seodaemun Prison in Northern Seoul, where she continued to oppose the Japanese government (she even organized a rally in prison to commemorate the first anniversary of “Samil-jeol” on March 1, 1920). She was eventually transferred to an underground cell, where she was brutally tortured and beaten. She died at the age of 17 on September 18, 1920, as a result of malnutrition and severe injuries. It is estimated that over 2 million people participated in over two thousand pro-independence 3-1 marches.

Kang, Inyoung. Overlooked No More: Yu Gwan-sun, a Korean Independence Activist Who Defied Japanese Rule. The New York Times, 2 Apr. 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/28/obituaries/overlooked-yu-gwan-sun.html. Accessed 1 March 2021.
Sohn, Ji-young. [Eye Plus] Remembering Yu Gwan-Sun, Icon of Korea’s March 1 Independence Movement. The Korea Herald, 28 Feb. 2019, http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20190227000831. Accessed 1 March 2021.
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