Amazing Kids! Magazine

A Woman’s Plea

By Qirrat Ahmad

 

During the 1900s, some countries did not give importance to the roles women held nor their opinions. There was a prejudice that men worked outside the household and that women should be confined to household chores. The Republic of Korea was one of the nations that overcame these stereotypes. Their hardships brought them, the people, closer together and created a close bond between men, women, and children. After being oppressed by the Japanese for nearly 35 years, the people of the nation could not bring themselves to discriminate against each other based on gender. Because of this, there were many women involved in the fight against Japan. The one that stood out the most was Yu Gwan-sun, one of the organizers of the March 1st Movement.

Gwan-sun was from the Chungcheong Province in Korea. One of her teachers referred her to Ewha University, where she was able to attend because of a scholarship that would later require her to work as a teacher after graduation. As a student at the university, Gwan-sun witnessed the beginnings of the March 1st Movement, one of the earliest public displays of Korean resistance during its rule by Japan. Soon, Gwan-sun took part in the movement and participated in demonstrations at Seoul on March 5.

Because Gwan-sun was a minor, she was offered a lighter sentence in exchange for an admittance of guilt and cooperation with the Japanese police in finding the other collaborators involved in the demonstration. The rave teenage girl refused to betray her people and was loyal to the Movement’s cause even under extreme torture.

After a short period of time, Gwan-sun was transferred to the Prison of Gongju Police Station. She didn’t waver as she stood at the trial at the Gongju local court and was found guilty of sedition and law violations. During the trial, Gwan-sun stood her ground and protested against the unjust nature of the trial. She pointed out that it was controlled by the Japanese. She attempted to make an appeal but abandoned her efforts when she realized it was futile. Gwan-sun was sentenced to five years of imprisonment at Seodaemun Prison. Even imprisonment could not break her spirit, and she continued to be a public supporter for the independence of Korea. Because of this, she received numerous beatings and other forms of torture at the hands of Japanese officers.

On March 1, 1920, Gwan-sun prepared a massive demonstration with her fellow inmates in honor of the first anniversary of the March 1st Independence Movement. The Japanese were less than pleased with this and took her to a different, underground prison. It is theorized that Gwan-sun died on September 28, 1920, due to the beatings and torture she sustained there.

At first, Japanese prison officials refused to release her body in an attempt to hide the evidence of torture. Multiple sources threatened to reveal their suspicions of torture to the public. In order to avoid this, the Japanese released her body. On October 14, 1920, Gwan-sun’s funeral was held at the Jung-dong Church by Minister Kim Jong-wu. She was buried in the public Itaewon cemetery, which was unfortunately destroyed at a later date. After independence for the Republic of Korea was achieved, Yu Gwan-sun’s shrine was built in honor of her bravery.

Gwan-sun is known as Korea’s Joan of Arc. While the March 1st Movement did not immediately grant freedom to Korea, it gave hope to the people. It was the first step towards independence. The people now had hope and were reassured of their chances of winning. Foreigners living in Korea also started to support Korean independence. Because she refused to let go of her convictions and beliefs even after her arrest, Gwan-sun became a symbol of hope for Korean independence.