Monument at Gwangju's Jeil High School.
Today is the anniversary of the Kwangju Students' Independence Movement (광주학생항일운동), which is said to have started on November 3rd, 1929, when on a train between Gwangju and Naju some Korean students were apprehended for fighting with Japanese schoolchildren. I'll refer you to my post from last year for a lengthier write-up.
But I will quote at length what the Gwangju official site had to say about it last year; the link is currently broken and I haven't found that history on the new page:
The "Kwangju Students Independence Movement" that erupted on November 3, 1929 and spread nation-wide, was a typical national resistance movement against the cruel rule of Japanese colonialism. Its size, the influence it exerted and its historical significance were comparable with that of the huge "Samil Independence Movement".
This patriotic students' uprising was not accidentally sparked by the collision between Korean students and those of Japan commuting by railway from Naju to Kwangju. Its remote causes retroact back to: the so-called "Cultural Policy" executed by the Japanese authorities, worldwide panic around 1929, heightening of the labor movement, farmers solidarity, and students' conscious awakening and their movement.
November 3, 1929, the birthday of the Meiji Emperor of Japan coincidentally fell on our National Foundation day, October 3, 1929 in the lunar calendar. On this day, our students who had been forced to visit the Japanese Shinto shrine and worship their god, were in a severely depressing mood. Added to this gloomy atmosphere, the Japanese students' insulting challenge added fuel to the flame of our students' burning patriotism.
The "Kwangju Students Independence Movement", though initiated in Kwangju in the form of a demonstration, spread like a prairie fire to the length and breadth of the nation, occasioning demonstrations, strikes in which 194 schools, 5,400 or more students participated. In the course of this noble self-sacrifice of the students' up-rising, victims rose to 582 students expelled from schools, 2,390 suspended from attendance for the unlimited period, and 1,462 captured for trial.
This movement not only spread to the whole nation, but it went beyond national frontiers: Chientao(間島)- the north-eastern region of Manchuria where many Koreans were in exile,- Kirin(吉林) Province, Shanghai, Peking and Japan as a whole numerous rallies and demonstrations to encourage and display solidarity were held.
This independence movement was strengthened by the ardent participation of various social groups such as Shinganhoe, keunwuhoe, Korean Youth Alliance, and secret societies like Seongjinhoe, Reading Circle Headquarters, and Korean Students Alliance, etc. Furthermore, despite the harsh suppression by the colonial authorities, the noble spirit of patriotic resistance continued to exist, fially being reignited in 1943, the 2nd Kwangju Students Uprising of the outcome of resistance against compulsory conscription and the offering rice for military provisions.
Students filled with patriotic sentiment and a sense of justice rose courageously against the Japanese colonial rule in order to achieve national independence and to eliminate unbearable discrimination imposed by the Japanese, Their noble behaviour and spirit represent the heroic posture of our predecessors, inviting us to follow the pattern.
Here is what the current Gwangju city page has to say about Gwangju under Japanese rule:
On September 30, 1910, when Japan annexed Korea, according to new regional systems, the eupjang (a head of eup) ruled Gwangju and the region within Gwangju-eup was called Seongjae-myeon. Out of seong are Gyraebang, Gongsubang, and Budongbang and Gwangju-myeon was so called by annexing 1 myeon and 3 bangs. On April 1, 1931, according to the revision of the regional system, Gwangju was promoted to Gwangju-eup and the administrative system was reformed, promoting to Gwangju to Gwangju-bu. The administrative regions were expanded to 41 Jungs.
*sigh* Here's a bit from the city's tourism homepage:
The flames of patriotism spread nationwide and 54,000 students from 194 schools joined the movement, becoming the biggest ethnic movement since the March 1st movement in 1919, igniting many other independence movements thereafter.
In 1953, the government designated Nov. 3rd as "Student Day"in commemoration of the Gwangju Students'Independence Movement and a memorial monument was established in Gwangju Seo Middle School and Il High School in 1954. The day was at one point abolished by the autocratic government before finally being named as "Students'Independence Memorial Day"and elevated to a nationwide memorial day in 2006.
The Students'Independence Movement Memorial Building was first opened in 1967 in Hwanggeum-dong Gwangju and newly opened in Hwajeong-dong Seo-gu. The memorial building has an exhibition hall, a movie hall, a round-shaped outdoor stage and a stone monument which symbolizes a beacon.
The "Gwangju Students'Independence Movement Memorial Monument" is accessible by a number of buses, although contrary to what that page says, two of the sources I found last year said the protests spread to 540,000 students nationwide. The old Naju Station is no longer operational, but the Naver encyclopedia has some pictures here.
Here's what Matt of Gusts of Popular Feeling had to say on last year's post, though:
Interesting. Donald Clark's Living Dangerously in Korea says instead that "On October 30, 1929, a group of commuting Japanese students molested a Korean girl student who was trying to pass through a turnstile at the Kwangju railway station. When some Korean schoolboys rushed to defend her there was a general melee. Others rushed to join in and fighting spread throughout the city's streets and alleyways."
I wonder which story is correct?
And from commenter Michael:
제일고등학교 was the school I worked at last year. I asked the kids about what they knew about the Gwangju Students Independence Movement. All I got were blank stares and grunts.
Not surprising---my students liked making fun of Yu Gwan-sun for being ugly---but I did learn about "Students' Day" (학생의날) from the campus newspaper at Chonnam National University, so that's something.