Nameless girls and women teachers in the forefront of the independence movement
"Young girls barely 10 years old, ordinary housewives and girl students were subject to humiliating treatment, corporal punishment and torture, all because they displayed their passion for their country and called for national independence. Young girls were toppled and ruthlessly beaten."
"According to the accounts of Reverend Edward W. Twing, about 20 girl students were quietly walking along the road when Japanese soldiers fell on them, hit them savagely with their guns and subject them to humiliation."
"According to the information gathered by Professor Lee Dae Wi of San Francisco, young girls were dragged out of their houses by their hair and tied to telegraph poles and beaten up in public. Women were assaulted and sentenced to inhumane torture." (<The Truth of the Korean Independence Movement> recorded by C.W. Kendall)
The 1919 demonstration was a peaceful struggle where the Korean people, completely defenseless against the weapons of Japanese military police, shouted, "Long live Korean independence!" across the nation. A noteworthy fact is that almost all the foreigners and foreign press recounting the situation spoke with reverence about the "struggle of the Korean women."
Newspaper articles published during that time show that it was the women, including students and prostitutes from all over the country, who 'planned' and 'led' the "Long Live Korean Independence" demonstration. Knowing full well that they would be dragged away, stripped naked and tortured to death just for shouting for independence, the women nevertheless took to the streets, organized countless secret meetings, and sacrificed themselves for their nation's independence.
What is more surprising, however, is the fact that to this day, with the year 2002 marking the 83rd anniversary of the March First Movement, few people know about the Korean women's struggle for independence. Many know the names Maria Kim and Yu Gwan Sun, but history books record them as rare women who were far ahead of their peers. Vivid records of the women's struggle are mostly written by foreigners, and the women-led "Long Live Korean Independence" Movement was reported in much greater detail in the newspapers back then than in the historical records of the March First Movement we read today.
83 years ago, it was rare to see women in the streets, and all that was demanded of them was 'chastity' and 'obedience.' Let us go back in time to see how these faceless Korean women fought for freedom and justice. Let us revive their history and bring it back to our times.
Even prostitutes were freedom fighters
According to <Women Figures in History,> Japanese police chief Jibaryo, who assumed his post as the Director General of the Public Peace of Gyeongseong in September 1919, submitted the following report. "When we first came to Gyeongseong, the prostitutes did not seem to be drinking and dancing and frolicking around. The 800 women were not so much like prostitutes but independence fighters. Their rouged lips exuded sparks that inflamed the passion for independence in the hearts of young men who visited them. The Baekyeocheo brothel in Jangan was like a den of subversion. To the Japanese guests who visited the place, the prostitutes were as cold as ice, rarely speaking, much less laughing. It was like drinking in the netherworld in the company of ghosts."
"Prostitutes are also Korean people…" Prostitutes bit their fingers to draw the Korean flag with their blood and led the independence movement in Jinju and Suwon
The story of the "Long Live Korean Independence" Movement would not be complete without the prostitutes, who fought alongside the women students.
The prostitutes in Haeju, resolute in their belief that "prostitutes are also Korean people," joined the independence movement with gusto. Setting April 1 as D-day, they bit their fingers to make Korean flags with their blood, wrote articles in Korean when they could not obtain the Declaration of Independence, and ordered the printing of some 5,000 fliers. When they took to the streets wearing the Taegeuk mark on their heads, waving the Korean flag, handing out fliers and shouting "Long Live Korean Independence," the villagers joined them, forming a 3000-strong crowd of demonstrators.
In Jinju, 32 prostitutes led the demonstrators on March 19. Stirred by their action, butchers' wives spilled onto the streets to take on the Japanese military police, wielding butcher knives and shouting "Long Live Korean Independence." The Japanese arrested them and viciously carved the word Eda (meaning 'butcher') on the women's foreheads with knives.
People called these prostitutes who led the "Long Live Korean Independence" Movement 'ideology prostitutes.' These women created an organized and systematic movement through their own union. Newspapers reported their acts of courage in numerous articles. 'Jinju - Prostitutes Lead Demonstrators Waving Korean Flag…' 'Suwon - Suwon Prostitutes' Union Sends Volunteers to Charity Hospital…' 'Anseong - Together with 1,000 demonstrators, prostitutes stormed the district office and shouted "Long Live Korean Independence," then proceeded to climb Mt. Idonghae, where they waved the Korean flag and shook the mountain with their shouts…'