Explored on August 10, 2015
Happy 70th Anniversary of Korea’s Independence from Japan! Korea was freed from Japanese colonization on August 15, 1945 after thirty-five years. And today, the whole nation celebrates the liberty. All the lamp posts have the South Korean flags attached to them; many buildings have a huge flag plastered on the sides. And the former City Hall, now the 서울도서관/Seoul Metropolitan Library, has a grandiose 한옥 /hanok (traditional Korean house) exhibition built in front of the main entrance. It is supposed to show how the Seoul City Hall may have looked if the Japanese hadn’t occupied Korea.
When Japan invaded Korea, our citizens were forced to obey Japanese laws, speak the Japanese language (which explains why my grandpa speaks fluent Japanese), and change their names to Japanese ones (my grandpa’s younger sister still goes by her Japanese name). Many were brutally killed or abused, and many females, usually referred to as comfort women or 위안부 (euphemisms for prostitutes) were sexually exploited during this period. My knowledge on the colonization period is limited, but I definitely am interested. I’m hoping to read and learn more about the thirty five years Korea was occupied.
To honor this day, as well as to learn more about it, I visited downtown Seoul (a couple of days earlier to avoid the traffic and crowd) to take pictures of the nationalistic and celebratory atmosphere of Korea’s independence. Besides the usual view of 경북궁 / Kyungbook Palace or the 세종대왕 / King Sejong statue, flags were placed everywhere and several museums had special exhibitions going on about the occupation or Independence Day. Maybe I was under the influence of this very nationalistic day, but looking around downtown, I felt even prouder for my country. We were resilient and were able to rebuild our identity as Koreans even after decades of being ruled by another government.