Yu Gwansun

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Yu.
Yu Gwansun
Yu Gwan-sun.JPG
Yu Gwan-sun
Korean name
Hangul 유관순
Hanja 柳寬順
Revised Romanization Yu, Gwansun
McCune–Reischauer Yu, Kwansun

Yu 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 Imperial Japanese colonial rule of Korea in South Chungcheong.[1] The March 1st Movement was a peaceful demonstration by the Korean people against Japanese rule. Yu Gwansun is one of the most well-known participants in this movement, and through peaceful protest, she became the symbol of Korea's fight for independence.

Early life and education[edit]

Gwansun was from the Chungcheong Province in Korea. One of her teachers, Alice Sharp, was a Western missionary. She referred Gwansun to the Ewha Womans University in Seoul, known today as Ewha University. She was able to attend the school through a scholarship program that required recipients to work as a teacher after graduation. In 1919, while Gwansun was a student at the University's high school, she witnessed the beginnings of the March First Movement. Gwansun soon took part in the movement and participated in demonstrations in Seoul on March 5. On March 10,[2] the Ewha Women’s School was temporarily closed by the Governor-General of Korea, and Gwansun returned home to Cheonan.[3]


Independence Demonstration[edit]

Gwansun left Seoul after an order by the Japanese government to close all Korean schools in response to the ongoing independence protests. She returned to her home in Jiryeong-ri (now Yongdu-ri) and took a more active role in the protest movement.[4][5][6]

Aunae Market Demonstration and Arrest[edit]

Along with her family, Gwansun began to garner public resentment against Japanese occupation. She visited churches to tell others of the demonstrations in Seoul, and she planned[citation needed] an independence demonstration with Cho In-won and Kim Goo-Eung. This would also include people from neighboring towns, including Yeongi, Chungju, Cheonan and Jincheon. The demonstration took place on April 1, 1919 in Aunae Marketplace at 9:00 a.m.. About 3,000 demonstrators participated,[2] shouting, "Long Live Korean Independence!" ("대한독립만세"). By 1:00 p.m, the Japanese police responded by arresting Yu and several other demonstrators. Shots were fired, and Gwansun's parents were both killed. Jo In-won was also injured during the demonstration.[citation needed] The Japanese military police killed 19 people and injured 30 others that day.[2]

Because Gwansun was a minor, she was offered a lighter sentence in exchange of an admittance of guilt and cooperation with the police in finding the other collaborators from the demonstration. Gwansun refused and even under torture would not reveal the identity or whereabouts of any of her collaborators. [7]

Imprisonment and Utterance[edit]

After being held at the Cheonan Japanese Military Police Station for a short time, she was transferred to the prison of Gongju Police Station. On May 9, she stood trial at the Gongju local court and was found guilty of sedition and security law violations. During the trial, Gwansun firmly protested against the unjust nature of the trial because it was controlled by a Japanese judge, the Japanese colonial administration, and the law of Governor-General of Korea. She made an attempted to appeal her sentence, but soon abandoned her efforts. On June 30, Gwansun was sentenced to five years of imprisonment at Seodaemun Prison. While serving her sentence, Gwansun continued to be a vocal supporter for the independence of Korea and thus received numerous beatings and other forms of torture at the hands of Japanese officers.

On March 1, 1920, Gwansun prepared a massive demonstration with her fellow inmates in honor of the first anniversary of the March 1st Independence Movement.[2] She was then taken to a different, undergound prison.[2] Supposedly due to the beatings and torture she sustained there, Gwansun died on September 28, 1920, just 3 months before her release.[8] Based on the records discovered in November 2011, of the 45,000 who were arrested in relation to the protests during that period, 7500 died at the hands of the Japanese authorities, including Yu Gwansun.[9][10]

After Death[edit]

Japanese prison officials initially refused to release her body in an attempt to hide the evidence of torture. Authorities only released her body under pressure of the threat made by the principals of Ewha Womans School, Lulu Frey and Jeannette Walter, of revealing their suspicions and allegations of torture to the public. The body was received in a Saucony Vacuum Company oil crate. Contrary to later allegations, it was not cut into pieces, as assured by Walter who had dressed the body for funeral proceedings.[11] On October 14, 1920, her funeral was held at the Jung-dong Church by minister Kim Jong-wu, and her body was buried in the public Itaewon cemetery. The cemetery was destroyed at a later date. After independence, Yu Gwansun's shrine was built with the cooperation of South Chungcheong and Cheonan.[12]


Gwansun is known as Korea’s Joan of Arc.[13] 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 soon implemented a more lenient stance. Foreigners living in Korea also 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.[14]


  1. ^ Bright Figures in Korean History (한국역사를 빚낸사람들), Kim, Han-ryong Compiler (김한룡 엮음) 대일출판사
  2. ^ a b c d e "Yu Gwan-sun, the Indefatigable Independence Fighter". KBS World Radio. Korea Communications Commission. 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2016. 
  3. ^ http://www.cheonan.go.kr/yugwansun/sub01_03.do, 천안시 유관순 열사 기념관 어린시절과 학창시절
  4. ^ Books, L. L. C. (1 May 2010). "Korean People Who Died in Prison Custody: Yu Gwan-Sun, Yun Dong-Ju, Pak Paengnyeon, Kim Jeong-Ho,". General Books LLC – via Google Books. 
  5. ^ Famous Koreans: Six Portraits -Yu, Kwan-Sun (1904–20) - By Mary Connor at aasianst.org
  6. ^ http://www.cheonan.go.kr/yugwansun/sub01_04.do, 천안시 유관순 열사 기념관 3.1 만세운동
  7. ^ http://www.cheonan.go.kr/yugwansun/sub01_05.do, 천안시 유관순 열사 기념관 아우내 만세운동
  8. ^ Lonely Planet; Simon Richmond (1 November 2012). Lonely Planet Seoul. Lonely Planet. pp. 294–. ISBN 978-1-74321-363-6. 
  9. ^ Connor, Mary. "Famous Koreans Six Portratis". Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  10. ^ http://www.cheonan.go.kr/yugwansun/sub01_06.do, 천안시 유관순 열사 기념관 옥중투쟁
  11. ^ 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."
  12. ^ http://www.cheonan.go.kr/yugwansun/sub01_07.do, 천안시 유관순 열사 기념관 열사의 순국
  13. ^ "Korea's Joan of Arc latest figure in East Asia's colonial propaganda war | The National". Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  14. ^ McMurray, Nathan. "Society: The March 1st Independence Movement and its big sister". 10 Magazine. Retrieved 2015-05-05.