Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Independence From Japan Celebrations at Insadong

Sunday, March 1st 2009, marked Korea's 90th Anniversary celebrating their Independence Day. Way back in 1919 a movement started where Korean nationalists made certain actions towards freeing Korea from the hands of the Japanese.

Koreans call it the Samil Undong.
was a well-planned independence movement against the Japanese. It was historically significant as it increased a spirit of national unity among Koreans, and showed the world that Koreans did not want to be ruled by Japan. The planners were representatives of various independence organizations (most of whom had some religious affiliation) who intended the movement to be peaceful. They made well-organized plans and arrangements. These included the writing of a Declaration of Independence and sending copies of it to participants throughout the country.
On this historic day I travelled to Insadong to meet some friends of mine. Little did I realize what I was walking into. My friend (Cynthia) mentioned that there will be celebrations going, but I didn't know it was going to be at the heightened level that I saw.

After exiting the station and making my way towards Insadong entrance I came first to the site of many old people gathered around the Tapgol Park. On a normal day this park is filled with old men who have nothing to do at their old age but hang about in the park.

However, on this day, the old men had a lot to do. I think this festival was not just significant for everyone, but more so for the elderly of the crowd.

Photo log of the Celebrations:
Near the entrance to Tapgol Park there were pictures posted of the historical day, and some with information about the history (in Korean).
People were gathered inside the park.

There was a stage with ongoing performances and ceremonies.
Hapkido performances.

Lanterns hung about the area.

There was one part where a parade of older women dressed in hanboks and Buddhist monks walked around the stage. They were carrying pictures with them. The images on the pictures were faces and the photos were in black and white. From this site I made the conclusion that they were carrying pictures of people who lead or helped in Korea's independence.

When they came to the stage there was a special table for them to place the pictures on top. Afterwards everyone lined up and took a bow. What these pictures fail to capture are the sounds heard at the festival. Silly me forgot to take a video clip! You could feel the nationalism in the air as nearly everyone had a Korean flag in their hand. In fact on these National Holiday days you can see hanging out the windows of the high rises Korean flags.

I have to admit I felt somewhat odd standing behind the crowd of viewers. I got a few questionable looks from some older men. But I smiled back trying to show I was no threat. All in all I would have to say that I felt fulfilled having this cultural experience.

I will write about the rest of my day with friends in my next post. ~ ;)


  1. They're practicing hapkido, not taekwondo.

  2. Thank you ~ the correction was made.

  3. Tapgol Park would definitely be the place to be during Samil, i wish I had thought of it!

    My Co-Teacher told me that there would really be nothing special going on on Sunday. Huh.

  4. It might be good to go there during Samil, but if you don't go there on buddha's birthday (lantern festival) particularly after dark, you are doing a disservice to yourself.


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