Ryu Gwansun

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Ryu.
Ryu Gwansun
Yu gwansun.JPG
Ryu Gwan-Sun statue in her memorial site in Cheonan
Korean name
Hangul 류관순
Hanja 柳寬順
Revised Romanization Ryu, Gwansun
McCune–Reischauer Ryu, Kwansun

Ryu Gwansun (December 16, 1902 – September 28, 1920), also known as Yu Gwansun or Yoo Kwan-Soon, was an organizer in what would come to be known as the March 1st Movement against the Japanese colonial rule of Korea in South Chungcheong.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

In 1919, Ryu was a student at Ewha Womans University's high school in Seoul, where she witnessed the beginnings of the March 1st Movement. Her deep faith in God and the teachings from the Methodist Ehwa School gave her the courage to act boldly.[2]

Career[edit]

When the school went into recess, following an order by the Japanese government closing all Korean schools, she returned to her home in Jiryeong-ri (now Yongdu-ri).

There, along with her family, she began to arouse public feeling against the Japanese occupation. She also planned a demonstration for independence, which included people from some neighboring towns, Yeongi, Chungju, and Jincheon. The demonstration was scheduled to start on the first lunar day of March 1919 at 9:00 a.m. in Awunae Marketplace. About 2,000 demonstrators shouted, "Long live Korean Independence!" ("대한독립만세"). The Japanese police were dispatched at around 1:00 p.m. that same day, and Ryu was arrested with other demonstrators. Both of her parents were killed by Japanese police during the demonstration.

Ryu served a brief detention at Cheonan Japanese Military Police Station, and then she was tried and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment at Seodaemun Prison. During her sentence, Ryu, Gwan-Sun continued to protest for the independence of Korea, for which she received harsh beatings and diverse, extremely severe forms of torture at the hands of Japanese officers. She died in prison on September 28, 1920, reportedly as the result of torture. Her final words were, "Even if my fingernails are torn out, my nose and ears are ripped apart, and my legs and arms are crushed, this physical pain does not compare to the pain of losing my nation. My only remorse is not being able to do more than dedicating my life to my country."

The Japanese prison initially refused to release her body, but eventually and reluctantly the prison released her body to Lulu Frey and Jeannette Walter, principals of Ewha Womans School, and only after Frey and Walter threatened to expose this atrocity to the world. Her body was reported to have been cut into pieces, but in fact according to Walter, who dressed her body for funeral, this allegation was false.[3] The body was contained inside an oil crate which was supposed to be returned to Saucony Vacuum Company. The Japanese authorities did this as a retaliation against the threat from Ehwa School.

Legacy[edit]

She was posthumously awarded the Order of Independence Merit in 1962.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bright Figures in Korean History (한국역사를 빚낸사람들), Kim, Han-ryong Compiler (김한룡 엮음) 대일출판사
  2. ^ Famous Koreans: Six Portraits -Yu, Kwan-Sun (1904–20)- By Mary Connor at aasianst.org
  3. ^ Interview with Jeanette Walter quoted in Living Dangerously in Korea: The Western Experience 1900-1950, Clark, Donald N. (Norwalk, CT: Eastbridge, 2003). "... when I was in Korea in 1959, I was interviewed by a group from Kwansoon's school, and I assured them on tape that her body was not mutilated. I had dressed her for burial."