If you’re traveling around the Jamsil area of Seoul between the Olympic Stadium and Olympic Park, you might realize that the flags of different countries hung in the middle of the road. But when all of the flags are taken down and replaced with Korean national flags, you’ll know that a national holiday is coming. It’s Korean Independence Day.
In this guide, we will show you how Independence Day celebrate in South Korea.
When Is Independence Day In South Korea
Korean Independence Day, also known as ‘Gwangbokjeol’, falls on August 15 yearly. It means ‘Restoration of Light Day’. The name symbolizes an end to the darkness of Japan’s rule over the Korean peninsula.
The word ‘restoration’ is used instead of the word for ‘independence’ so as to highlight how Korea has a long and proud history and how the Korean country was ‘restored’ in 1945, not ‘founded’. That’s why so many Koreans call this day ‘Korean Liberation Day’ or ‘National Liberation Day of Korea’ when they translate ‘Gwangbokjeol’ into English
History of Korean Independence Day
One of the worst periods in Korean history occurred in the first half of the 20th century when Korea became a colony of Japan. Under Japanese rule, people were obliged to bear Japanese names and many Koreans were forcibly enlisted to provide labor for Japan and recruited into the Japanese army at the end of the Second World War.
During the time of Japanese domination, many Koreans stood up against the Japanese government and they had to pay for this rebellion with their lives.
March 1, 1919, was one of the most significant uprisings of this period. On that day, several Korean nationalists announced Korea’s independence, but, the struggle for independence extended for another 25 years until Korea truly gained its freedom.
When Korea eventually threw off its Japanese rulers, Korean Independence Day or National Liberation Day of Korea. In 1945, Korea was finally released from its occupation, and specifically three years later, on August 15th, 1948, the Republic of Korea was officially founded.
August 15th is commemorated by many nations as the day when Japan was defeated and the Second World War finally ends.
How Independence Day Celebrated In South Korea
Observe The Official Ceremony
On Independence Day, the local Korean government hang the Korean flag on streetlights and outside public buildings. In 2015, Lotte Group even placed a large Korean flag next to the Lotte tower under construction in Jamsil to honor this day.
If you travel to South Korea on this holiday, you may see many Korean flags hung from the windows of houses and apartments around the nation. Koreans raise the national flag on this day, as they usually do on Independence Movement Day and Korea Memorial Day. The government organizes an official ceremony and the day also has a “Gwangbokjeol song”. The song’s lyrics were composed by Jeong Inbo (정인보) and the melody by Yoon Yongha (윤용하)
There are several fireworks displays on Gwangbokjeol, but the main fireworks displays in South Korea are held on National Founding Day in October.
Honor The Activists
On South Korea Independence Day, many Koreans go to the Independence Hall in Cheonan City, in which people honor the activists who struggled for the independence of the Republic of Korea.
Most public museums and places are free for the descendants of independence activists on the day. The descendants of independence activists make a visit to inspire a sense of respect toward their nation and those who dedicated to its freedom.
South Korea Independence Day falls in August, one of the most popular vacation months, so it’s not surprising that Koreans gather in places around the world to commemorate this holiday. If you’re in Paris, France on August 15th, you’ll see a Liberation Day celebration taking place here! The Eiffel Tower is a hotspot for Independence Day celebrations.
On this holiday, it’s a tradition that the government issues special pardons to prisoners. This special pardon was the subject for the 2002 comedy film ‘Jail Breakers’ (광복절특사 | gwangbokjeolteuksa), where the main characters escape from prison, only to discover that they will be pardoned the following day.
Korean Independence Day Activities
Outsides of South Korea, the Korean diaspora around the world will participate in the Independence Day celebrations by sharing a meal of bibimbap and kimchi, singing Korean folk songs, or playing a game of Yut, a traditional board game played in Korea.
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Hopefully, this post helps you partly understand how Independence Day celebrate in South Korea as well as its tradition on this holiday. In addition to Independence Day in South Korea, it’s great to explore how Independence Day celebrated in Peru and how Independence Day celebrated around the world. If you find this post informative, don’t hesitate to share it with your friends and family members.