Ryu Gwansun

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Ryu.
Ryu Gwansun
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] The March 1st Movement was a peaceful proclamation by the Korean people for their freedom from the Japanese. Ryu Gwansun is one of the best known participants in this movement, and she became the symbol of Korea's fight for independence through peaceful protest.

Early life and education[edit]

Gwansun was from Chungcheong, Seoul. She had a teacher, Alice Sharp, who was a western missionary. Sharp referred Gwansun to Ewha Woman’s School, which is now known as Ehwa University, in Seoul. In 1919, Gwansun was a student at the University's high school, where she witnessed the beginnings of the March First Movement.


Gwansun left Seoul after an order by the Japanese government closing all Korean schools because of independence protests. She returned to her her home in Jiryeong-ri (now Yongdu-ri) and became involved in the protest movement. [2][3]

Along with her family, she began to arouse public feeling against the Japanese occupation. She also planned[citation needed] a demonstration for independence, which included people from some neighboring towns, Yeongi, Chungju, and Jincheon, which took place on the first lunar day of March 1919 in Awunae Marketplace, beginning at 9:00 a.m.. About 2,000 demonstrators participated, shouting, "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.[citation needed]

Ryu served a brief detention at Cheonan Japanese Military Police Station, and then 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 beatings and other forms of torture at the hands of Japanese officers. She died in prison on September 28, 1920, reportedly as the result of the torture.[4] She was one of an estimated 7,500 Korean citizens who died as a result of these protests, of the approximately 45,000 who were arrested in the same period.[5]

The Japanese prison officials initially refused to release her body, but eventually released it, in a Saucony Vacuum Company oil crate, to Lulu Frey and Jeannette Walter, principals of Ewha Womans School after Frey and Walter threatened to publicize the cause of her death. 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.[6]


Gwansune has been called Korea’s Joan of Arc.[by whom?] She was posthumously awarded the Order of Independence Merit in 1962. The March 1st Movement did not immediately grant freedom to Korea, but the Japanese colonial government implemented more lenient policies. People in the foreign community living in Korea started to support Korean independence. Because she did not abandon her convictions after her arrest, Gwansun became a symbol of the Korean fight for independence through peaceful protest and passive resistance.[7]


  1. ^ Bright Figures in Korean History (한국역사를 빚낸사람들), Kim, Han-ryong Compiler (김한룡 엮음) 대일출판사
  2. ^ http://books.google.com/books/about/Korean_People_Who_Died_in_Prison_Custody.html?id=1TSXSQAACAAJ
  3. ^ Famous Koreans: Six Portraits -Yu, Kwan-Sun (1904–20) - By Mary Connor at aasianst.org
  4. ^ Lonely Planet; Simon Richmond (1 November 2012). Lonely Planet Seoul. Lonely Planet. pp. 294–. ISBN 978-1-74321-363-6. 
  5. ^ Connor, Mary. "Famous Koreans Six Portratis". Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  6. ^ 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."
  7. ^ McMurray, Nathan. "Society: The March 1st Independence Movement and its big sister". 10 Magazine. Retrieved 2015-05-05.