Fighting for independence and national foundation, Opening up a new horizon for modern women
Yeo Un-hyeong 呂運亨 1886-1947
Yeo Un-hyeong (pen-name: Mongyang) was a respected Korean independence fighter and politician. His birthplace and memorial hall are located in Yangpyeong where he was born.
Yeo is generally regarded as a great politician who devoted his life to Korean independence rather than political ideologies or interests of a political faction. He was not just an ordinary freedom fighter, passionate and formidable as he surely was; he was also an outstanding public speaker and a man of knowledge and insight who had comprehensive understanding of the situation of his country from the perspective of world history. He joined other independence movement leaders in forming the New Korean Youth Corps (Sinhan Cheongnyeondan) in 1918 in Shanghai, China but was arrested in 1929 by Imperial Japan and taken to Korea where he was imprisoned for three years. Upon his release from prison, he continued his struggle for the liberation and independence of Korea through, among others, the establishment of the Joseon Alliance for National Government (Geonguk Dongmaeng) in 1944.
After the country's liberation, Yeo joined a group of political leaders, including Kim Gyu-sik (1881-1950) who agreed to a US-Soviet trusteeship in Korea based on the belief that he could realize a unified Korean government through the left-right cooperation after it. In 1946, The New York Times and the Associated Press (AP) gathered materials on him and concluded that he was “a great Korean democrat” and “an influential Korean progressive.” They regarded him highly not because they believed that he would serve the US’s interests but because they found him to be a man of great insight and vision as to the role of Korea regarding efforts to bring peace to the world. Yeo found that most politicians in both South and North were interested more in their personal gains than in the true independence and peace of Korea. He was assassinated on July 19, 1947 at the Hyehwadong Rotary by a man from one of the opposing factions.
William Langdon, US consul general in Korea and political adviser to John R. Hodge, military governor of Korea under the United States Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK), said of Yeo Un-hyeong after he was assassinated:
“When Mongyang [i.e., Yeo Un-hyeong] was murdered, I reached a conclusion by analyzing all his words and deeds remaining in my memory –individually and inwardly, he was closer to the United States than the USSR, but politically, he maintained an absolutely neutral stance between the two, and his only goal was to let the two powers retire from Korea as soon as possible.” (From Yeo Un-hyeong, Reconciler Transcending Time and Ideology by Yi Jeong-sik, Seoul National University Press, 2008)
Jo So-ang 趙素昻 1887-1958
Jo So-ang (pen-name: Jo Yong-eun) was a Korean independence movement leader and politician who served in one of the key positions in the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. His birthplace is currently under restoration along with a memorial park in Paju, Gyeonggi-do where he was born.
Jo So-ang is generally regarded as an outstanding theoretician, rationalist, and realist. He insisted that the Korean government inherit the authority established by the Provisional Government. He joined Kim Koo and Kim Gyu-sik to participate in the south-north negotiations but supported the establishment of a “separate government” after negotiations failed. He was elected as a National Assembly member through Korea’s second general election held in May 1950, winning the largest number of votes, but was kidnapped and taken to North Korea during the Korean War (1950-53). He is assumed to have died in 1958.
“If Korea could not win complete independence and freedom, it will undoubtedly continue to resist any power that tries to rule it, repeating the bloody history of the past thirty-something years. Therefore, putting Korea under an international organization is no better than destroying peace in the Far East. […] Trying to solve the post-war issue of oppressed nations with such archaic system as mandate must not represent the public opinion of the United States; neither shall it be endorsed by other powers such as China, USSR, and United Kingdom. These countries know only too well that the biggest issue to be dealt with after the Pacific War shall be bringing stability and peace to the Far East, and that the only solution shall be to ensure the recovery of complete independence and territories for Korea and China and offer them an opportunity to develop freely.” (From a statement made on February 1, 1943 by Jo So-ang to oppose the plan to put Korea under the trusteeship of the United Nations)
An Jae-hong 安在鴻 1891~1965
An Jae-hong (pen-name: Minse) was an independence fighter, politician, journalist, and historian. His house is located in Pyeongtaek.
He is now regarded as one of the few hardline nationalist leaders who remained at home, fighting hard against the Japanese’s colonial rule of Korea (1910-1945). He took part in the foundation of the New Stem Association (Singanhoe), a united national independence front formed in 1927 by both Korean nationalists and communists and, after the 1945 Liberation, the left-right cooperation. He was kidnapped and taken to the north during the Korean War (1950-53), passing away there in 1965.
“As a Korean nationalist leader, journalist, and historian, Mr. An Jae-hong was a noble state preceptor who assumed significant positions in all the areas he was engaged in; his own creative ideas, aimed at finding a way for the survival of Korea in the historical condition and environment, and the courage of spending a total of seven years and three months in jail since he was imprisoned nine times during the first half of the 20th century cement his image as a great leader of the Korean people in modern history. (Cheon Gwan-u, historian)
“He was a scholar by nature. He was also a journalist who was not inclined to enter the political arena. A man of no political ambition, he never tried to set up a political fund for his own benefit as others did or used his influence to help his supporters acquire fortune even after he accepted the position of Chief Civil Administrator.
He was widely admired as a man of sincerity and honesty as well as for the hardship he suffered during the Japanese colonial rule. Still, he had to go through a lot of difficult times not only during the harsh colonial rule but the following post-liberation era due to his lack of Machiavellian tactics and real political capacities, finally ending his life as a scapegoat of the times.” (Song Geon-ho, journalist)
Sin Ik-hui 申翼熙 1894~1956
Sin Ik-hui (pen-name: Haegong) was a Korean independence movement leader born in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do.
He served as Vice Minister of Home Affairs and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Provisional Government of Korea in Exile in Shanghai until the 1945 Liberation, after which he joined Syngman Rhee to oppose a trusteeship in Korea and support the establishment of a separate government in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. He was elected Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Korea in July 1948, and then Speaker after Rhee was elected first President of the Republic of Korea. He clashed with Rhee during the process of forming the Great Korean People's Party (Daehan Gungmindang), leaving him to establish the Democratic Nationalist Party (Minju Gungmindang) in 1949 and leading the opposition party together with Kim Seong-su (1891-1955) and Jo Byeong-ok (1894-1960). He was named the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in 1956, growing stronger as shown by a 300,000-strong crowd who gathered to express their support for him at a campaign rally held at a Hangang riverside beach. Ten days before election day, however, he died of cerebral hemorrhage, winning about 1.85 million “condolatory votes.” In 1962, he received a Republic of Korea Medal, Order of Merit for National Foundation for his meritorious deeds during the process of establishment of the Republic of Korea.
Empress Myeongseong 明成皇后 1851~1895
The principal consort of King (later Emperor) Gojong of the Joseon Dynasty who mothered Emperor Sunjong (r. 1907-1910). Her birthplace and memorial hall are located in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do.
Opinions vary as to the life and achievement of Empress Myeongseong, but records show that foreigners who happened to know her, except Japanese politicians, tended to have high regard for her. They found that the empress had noble character, good judgment, and diplomatic capability.
“The queen never appeared side by side with her husband in any audience room and for any meeting. No doubt, she intermittently exerted her influence over various state affairs, but this intellectual, thoughtful, and powerful female monarch never tried to be in the limelight even when her presence was required.” (Joseon in the Enlightenment Period as Seen from a French Diplomat’s Perspective by Hippolyte Frandin, Taehaksa, 2002)
“Her majesty seemed to care little for ornaments and wore very few. Korean women do not wear earrings (except young girls in the north, who wear large silver hoops), and the queen was no exception; neither have I ever seen her wear a necklace, a brooch, or a bracelet. […] So simple, so perfectly refined in her taste when it comes to clothing, it is difficult to think of her as one belonging to a nation regarded as half-civilized.” (Fifteen years among the top-knots, or Life in Korea by Underwood, Lillias H., Jipmoondang, 1904)
Na Hye-seok 羅蕙錫 1896~1948
Na Hye-seok (pen-name: Jeongwol) was a painter, writer, poetess, sculptor, feminist, social activist, and journalist. She was born in Suwon.
Na Hye-seok is widely admired not only as an artist but also as a New Woman who bravely challenged the conventional male-dominated society of her time. It was when she was 19 years old that she asked, “They talk about ‘wise mothers and good wives,’ but why not about ‘wise fathers and good husbands?” This started her lifelong struggle against the society that oppressed women. She is now generally regarded as a pioneer who was ahead of her time, a scapegoat of a society run by old-fashioned ethics and filled with hypocrisy and moral perversion. She is also considered to be a distinguished artist who mastered a variety of Western art genres -- figure paintings, still life, landscape, nude, and print. She traveled to all corners of her country to observe and paint objects and landscapes that she believed characterized Korea.
“There is a duty for me to fulfill
Which is as sacred as that
To my husband and children.
I will tread the road of a mission
Which will make me a human being
And make me whole. I know
That my body would be worthless
If I cannot be a true human
Who can tear down everything
From her uncontrollable mind.
Now I wake up.
Ah! Listen, my dear girls!
Think of me, and
Offer your bodies for me
With all your hearts.
It will surely be darker and darker
But one day after the storm
Only you and I will be humans.
(From “Song of a Doll”)
Choi Yong-shin 崔容信 1909~1935
Choi Yong-shin was a social activist committed to rural development and educator. Her memorial hall is located in Ansan, Gyeonggi-do.
For Choi, the village called Saemgol (present-day Bono-dong of Ansan-si) represented her “tireless efforts for progress.” It was a tiny, poor “church hamlet” of about twenty households where most villagers were uneducated and consequently illiterate.
One of the first activities carried out by Choi to “modernize” the village was to open three classes -- morning, afternoon, and evening -- to teach the villagers the Korean writing system, history, math, sewing, embroidery, and music as well as the Bible. She was also interested in helping the villagers learn new agricultural practices and hygiene.
How great would the distance be between the “enlightenment” by the Japanese Governors-General of Joseon and that by Choi? Both had similar campaigns for crop improvement, fly control, temperance, prohibition of smoking, and destruction of superstition, but there was a fundamental difference -- unlike the Japanese authority that sought effective colonial rule over Korea, hers was based on her love and devotion toward her country and her people. She called the Korean writing system devised in the 15th century as Gugeo or “National Language,” often clashing with the Japanese colonial authority regarding her education based on Korean nationalism. (“Key Figures in the Rural Enlightenment Movement” in New Women Culture in the Encyclopedia of Cultural Archetypes (KOCCA, 2004)
600 Years of Gyeonggi-do
Planning | Gyeonggi-do, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Organization | 600 Years of Gyeonggi-do
Planning | Gyeonggi-do, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Organization | The Center for Gyeonggi Studies, Gyeonggi-do Institute of Cultural Properties
Co-authors | Jingap Gang(professor at Gyeonggi University
Jonghyuk Kim(professor at Research Institute of Korean Studies, Korea University)
Sangdae Lee(head of Future Vision Department at Gyeonggi Research Institute)
Jihoon Lee(senior researcher at Gyeonggi-do Institute of Cultural Properties)
Hyungho Jung(cultural properties specialist at Cultural Heritage Administration)
Project support | Taeyong Kim, Seoyeon Choi, Youngdae Kim, Hakseong Lee, Sohyun Park, Hyungmo Seong, Hogyun Kim, Kyeongmin Kim, Sujin Jo(PR & Marketing Team, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation)
For the celebration of Gyeonggi's 600 years(1414-2014), this exhibition is organized based on 『Gyeonggi-do 600 years』 which was published to remind us of the valuable history of Gyeonggi-do and encourage us to work further towards Korean reunification.
ⒸGyeonggi Cultural Foundation