August 15th represents a very significant day in South Korea’s history. In both North and South Korea, the date commemorates V-J Day, or Victory over Japan Day; when Japan was defeated and World War II came to an end. Many countries celebrate this day, but it is especially important in Korea as it signified the end of its foreign occupational rule.
Korea’s occupation by Japan is remembered as one of the darkest periods in its history. In 1910, Korea became a colony of Japan, and remained under its rule for the next thirty-five years. During this time, Koreans were forced to adopt Japanese names, and conscripted in labor as well as drafted into the Japanese army towards the end of the Second World War. Samil Day, celebrated on March 1st, commemorates one of the most important uprisings of this period. On March 1, 1919, several nationalists declared Korea independent; becoming one of the earliest displays of resistance against occupation. Check out our blog detailing this event here.
In 1945, Korea was finally liberated from its occupation, and exactly three years later, on August 15th, 1948, the Republic of Korea was officially established. The day that Korea was freed from Japanese rule is now known in South Korea as Gwangbokjeol, which means ‘Restoration of Light Day’. The name symbolizes how the day represents an end of the darkness of foreign rule over the Korean peninsula, as well as the restoration of Korea as an independent nation.