is a Korean word literally meaning "the time of the recovery of light",
and which is attributed to the Korean "memorial day of liberation" from
the Japanese Occupation, and the "memorial day of independence" from Japan,
which is considered by the Koreans as being August 15th. This consideration
is based on their understanding that their country was "liberated" and
became "independent" on the day Japan surrendered, which was August 15th
(1945). However, this is actually not true. This essay will backup this
statement and clarify when exactly South Korea became independent.
South Korea did not become independent on August
15th 1945. The other common date for its independence is August 15th 1948.
But this is also wrong.
South Korea became independent on August 13th 1948.
It was on this day that in Seoul South Korea declared its establishment and
So why did "August 15th" become the common date of
independence rather than the actual "August 13th" date? "August 15th" was
preferred so that the South Korean government could somewhat put aside the 3
years in between the Japanese surrender to their independence, by which they
could better simplify their modern history by simply separating it into
post-Japanese occupational era and Japanese occupational period. By doing
this, the process of giving the illusion that during the said period
everything was bad and that it was because of the Japanese, and that after
the said period everything is better and that it is because the Japanese had
left could be constructed more easily. This illusion would be useful for the
South Korean government in promoting popular nationalism, by which they would
unite the country, construct the Korean national identity, regain national
and historical pride, and so forth.
So what actually happened on August 15th 1945?
On August 15th 1945, as the war came to an end, the
Japanese Governor-General over Korea, Army Major General ABE Nobuyuki
and the commander-in-chief of the Japanese Military stationed in Korea,
Lieutenant General KAMIDSUKI Yoshio
took down "Nisshou-ki" the Japanese flag
from the Japanese Government House administrating Korea and raised what is
now "Tae-geug-gi" the South Korean flag
They organized the formation of the Preparation Committee for the
Independence of Korea and gave autonomy to Korea.
So, on August 15th 1945, Korea earned autonomy
from Japan, not independence. On September 8th 1945, the American Military
got hold of South Korea and dissolved South Korea's autonomy. On that day,
the American Army took down the Korean flag and raised back the Japanese
flag. To them, Korea was still a part of Japan. On September 9th, the
commander-in-chief of the Allied Military, General Douglas McARTHUR,
established a military administration over Korea. On that day the Japanese
flag was taken down and was then replaced by the American flag. Southern
Korea, before becoming South Korea, was sort of freed from Japanese
administration by the Japanese administration on August 15th 1945 but was
then placed under American administration on September 8th – 9th
1945. South Korea became independent only after around 3 years, on August
13th 1948. So the actual day of the South Korean independence, and of the
South Korean liberation from any kind of outside administration was August
13th 1948. August 15th 1945 is the day they earned autonomy from Japan by
Japan and were freed from Japan by Japan. One could perhaps call August
15th 1945 the "liberation" day from Japanese administration but not with
the connotation they intend to imply; meaning that it was not a liberation
from outside administration, it was not the end of the outside
administration, it was not the turning point of their history from outside
administration to independence, it was not an independence, and so forth.
(One could perhaps argue that September 8th or 9th is the actual date of
"liberation" from Japanese administration.) Anyhow, South Korea's actual
independence date is August 13th 1948 and it was an independence from the
American military administration. (Of course, when exactly they became
truly independent, if ever, from considerable American influence is
The first president of South Korea, I Seung-man
1875 – 1865), chose August 15th rather than 13th for political reason.
He sought to build up a Korean historical identity as opposed to the rival
Japanese one. He sought to build competitive spirit, a spirit of vengeance
and pride among the Koreans. He sought to attribute the responsibility for
the negative aspect of the Korean situation to Japan, he sought to emphasize
it and the particularity and uniqueness of the Japanese administration.
The anti-Japanese historical view that is taught
in Korea is based on many lies and errors. Truth is altered according to the
national interest. To mention all the said lies and errors is not the
objective of this short essay. I sought to clarify how politics, linked to
many other factors, can alter truth to fit its interest. Through this, I
wish to reaffirm the need to be aware of such possibility and to encourage
people to doubt, question and examine information.