Syon Lee/ Millburn HS 10th Grade
“Mansei! Mansei!” echoed throughout Pagoda Park as 33 ardent activists declared the need for an independent state. Bodies consumed with nationalistic vitality occupied the area as eager mouths chanted, shouted, and roared. The yearning for liberty was manifested in this act of protest on this chilly, Seoul day.
Similarly, 143 years before, 56 delegates prepared to sign the American Declaration of Independence. They swarmed Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, cultivating the means for independence with the common goal to eradicate the allegiance to the king and Great Britain. This remarkable operation would soon dominate America.
Parallels exist between the declaration read aloud on March 1, 1919 and the Declaration of Independence, which was signed on July 4, 1776. Both declarations were written out of the sentiment to separate and form an Independent nation. The desire to secede was catalyzed by the oppressive rule of Japan and Britain on Koreans and American colonists, respectively. The Korean citizens suffered from heavy taxation, disparity in education, exploited labor, and the lack of political authority under Japanese rule. Alike this, the American colonists were taxed heavily without representation in order to pay England’s war debts from the French and Indian War. Ultimately, both the Korean citizens and American colonists felt violated. They felt a loss of liberty. They felt oppressed and controlled. Therefore, there are visible similarities between the colonists and Koreans, and why they wanted to separate.
Moreover, the general sense of both declarations demanded the recognition of liberties. And interestingly, both declarations used religious references. Korea’s independence of declaration justifies its desire to separate from Japan by deeming it as a “clear command of heaven¨. America’s declaration makes the argument that God has has given all people natural rights that cannot be infringed upon, suggesting the presence and emphasis on religion in both societies.
However, a striking difference between the two documents reveals contrasting mindsets between the Koreans and American colonists. The American colonists were enraged. They included a long fiery list of grievances directed to King George, essentially placing all the blame on him for inflicting oppression. In contrast, the March 1 Declaration called upon Korean people to rise up to serve Korea’s spiritual legacy and rich cultural history. The declaration asked the Korean citizens to move forward, forgiving their oppressors and pondering on how to advance the nation in the future. Essentially to, forgive, move on, and advance. This mindset originates from the essence of Korean virtues, which places emphasis on the importance of tradition, ancestry, and culture. Although the Korean citizens had every right to feel violated and lash out at Japan, their oppressors, the fact that they chose not, holds true to Korean values.
The March 1 declaration was the catalyst that sparked a series of non-violent marches that would unite the Korean citizens. This movement is characterized as having vitality, perseverance, and upmost nationalism. But this happened 100 year ago. So we ask ourselves the question: Why should we remember the March 1 movement? What significance does it have now? Even though this movement occurred many years ago, this movement and specifically, this declaration, embodies the Korean spirit. It highlights the obligation to honor Korea’s ancestors, traditions, culture, and future generations by maintaining a harmonious, moral society. Moving forward, it is crucial to keep these values at heart. Moving forward, it is crucial that Korea views this movement as an noble model of nonviolent protest. Moving forward, it is crucial that Korea does not settle for anything less than justice when dealing with foreign affairs or policies within the country. Moving forward, it is crucial to remember the power and strength of the united Korean people. This movement exemplifies the strength that we, Koreans, possess and are capable of demonstrating. Today, tomorrow, next week, next year, and for the rest of my life, I will live proudly as a Korean, knowing that I will not settle for anything less than I deserve. The Korean people bravely fought for their independence in brutal times with the help of their honorable hearts, strong minds, and most importantly “Mansei” ringing in their ears. And today, I will fight for what I believe in. Thank you.
삼일운동 백주년 기념 경운장학회 제9회 여어 웅번대회 수상작-Finalist
Syon Lee/ Millburn HS 10th Grade
<Syon Lee/ Millburn HS 10th Grade