Monday, August 16, 2010

Independence Day in SK

For the past week, patriotism has been in the air.  Flags are displayed on public buses and car windows all over town.  They fly outside the businesses and homes that line Busan’s streets.  These are symbolic of Korea's Independence Day.

Compared to Saturday’s "Green Day," August 15th  (Sunday this year) in South Korea is a more serious holiday.  On this day the country celebrates its independence from Japan, who maintained power over Korea from 1910 to 1945.  

On August 15, 1945 Japan surrendered to the USA, giving autonomy to Korea.  For almost three years following that, the country was under the American military's administration.  On August 13, 1948 Korea was given complete independence.

For political reasons, South Korea’s first president chose to commemorate Independence Day as Korea’s liberation from Japan on August 15th rather than the 13th.  The goal was to build a historical identity for the country through creating a competitive spirit, and an attempt to instill pride into Koreans. 

Considering the recentness of these events, animosity toward Japan and their control still exists in South Korea today.  This is just another facet of Korean and Asian culture that fascinates us.  Korea has faced many hardships that have been overcome in recent years.  More remain unresolved, most notably the country’s internal division.

The reality of the situation between North and South Korea has become more real to me since the day I tried to picture what life would be like if America suddenly divided.  Try to conceptualize our country split directly down the middle, leaving the east and west as two separate nations.  It is unimaginable.

Although the odds are against it in the near future, I’m hopeful that someday soon resolutions can be made between the two sides of this country. 

In the meantime, the pride and happiness of freedom is celebrated nationally throughout the South and is commemorated with parades, political speeches and individuals' gratitude.

Happy Independence Day to South Korea!

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