Recently, the New York State Council decided to organize a Memorial Day to honor Yu Gwan-sun (1908-1920). Although all other members except Ron Kim, were non-Korean, they adopted it unanimously. It means that they agree with the historical significance of the March 1st movement at the New York State level. An anti-Japanese independence movement against the Japanese colonial rule occurred on March 1, 1919. It was the largest ever Korean national movement.
The proposer of this resolution is Ron Kim, a Korean-American congressman in New York. He explained that the intent of this resolution is to honor the indomitable will of Yu Gwan-sun, who never gave up. Furthermore, he explained that her spirit is not only the spirit of Koreans but also the DNA of the immigrants of the world who are rooted in Asia as well as America. In fact, it isn’t the first time that Yu Gwan-sun has been spotlighted in New York. Her life was announced in the New York Times report in March of 2018. From March of last year, the project Overlooked, posted by the New York Times shared the remarkable story of Yu Gwan-sun in the form of an obituary. The project introduced many details including her birth, what her life was like as she grew up, her achievements, and what led her to lead Korea’s Independence Movement in Cheonan’s home market. They evaluated that the March 1st movement didn’t immediately lead to Korea’s independence, but solidified the sense of the national unity which helped serve as a catalyst for the resistance to Japan.
There are many incidents that show the suffering and struggle of Korea under Japanese colonization. For example, Japanese soldiers forced many Koreans to become their sex slaves and forced laborers. Furthermore, when the Japanese soldiers were losing the war, they gathered and killed the sex slaves to hide their existence. On this issue, the Japanese government said until 1990, the comfort women, sex slaves, were volunteers. However, the United States found evidence that Japan forced Koreans into sex slavery, and the Japanese government was forced to admit partial responsibility to this fact. Despite this fact, Japan still has not compensated for these crimes.
The Korean forced laborers were used when the Japanese government mobilized Koreans to supplement the labor force. Some of them were massacred for the sake of confidentiality. On October 30, 2018 the Korean Supreme Court ruled that Japan must pay 100 million won per person to victims of forced labor. This is the 21st year since the first lawsuit in Japan initiated in 1997. In February of 2005, the lawsuit was filed in Korea.
Likewise, there are still cases that haven’t been compensated and lawsuits in progress. We should be interested in those incidents and remember those who tried to protect our country.