Today is the Korean liberation day, a national holiday in Korea. I’m still so super excited about my new office that even though it’s raining cats and dogs, and I technically could stay home, I still went to work anyway. What can I say, my new office is just that nice!
But back to the point. What is Korean liberation day? To my fellow Danish nationals, it may resemble our celebrations of May 5th, where we mark our liberation from the Nazi-Germany occupation regime. To Koreans, this day (in Korean referred to as 광복절, literally meaning “the day the light returned”) marks the 1945 liberation from decades of Japanese oppression. From 1910 (the end of the Joseon dynasty) until 1945, the Korean peninsula was under Japanese rule. The only flag allowed was the Japanese, Korean citizens were prohibited from speaking anything but Japanese, and finally they were even forced to give up their Korean names and take new Japanese names. Nothing reminding them of their Korean heritage or ancestry was allowed. Because of this brutal regime, many elderly Koreans still harbor a strong hatred toward Japan.
Today, Koreans celebrate the holiday by displaying the Korean flag, Taegeugki everywhere. The street just outside my home is beautifully decorated with the flags hanging from every lamppost, and when I went to the convenience store this morning to buy a cup of coffee, I noticed that the girl behind the counter wore a badge with the Korean flag and the text “I love my flag, I love my country”.
Even though it’s been more than 70 years since the Japanese colonial rule, Koreans are not ones to “forgive and forget”. There are still strong diplomatic tensions between the two countries, who are equally matched when it comes to stubbornness. Every year, South Korea promotes the Korean movie of the year as a historical fiction piece depicting Korean heroes fighting agains Japanese villains during the colonial rule. Previous years have seen blockbusters like “Assassination” (암살), “The age of shadows” (밀정), and this year’s big hit is “Battleship island” (군함도). The common denominator for all of these movies is that they glorify the Korean resistance army, depict Japan as the ultimate villain, and quite often include scenes where the Japanese flag is being torn into pieces. While I understand the Korean’s urge to express their opinions and depict their violent history, I also understand why this behavior continues to p*** off the Japanese.
Anyway, since the weather today is monsoon rain on steroids, I’m planning on skipping the parades and ceremonies and just stay in my new comfy office. Happy Korean liberation day! 광복절 잘 보내세요!
P.S. If you’re interested I’ll post the trailer for “Battleship island” below. If it makes you more interested I can reveal that it has Song Joongki and So Jisub among the lead actors. Enjoy!