President Moon Jae-in delivered a message of hope and faith in democracy and a celebration of Korean independence in a ceremony held at the Seodaemun Prison History Hall on March 1 to mark the 99th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement.
President Moon emphasized that, “The most significant achievement of the March First Independence Movement was the establishment of the Korean Provisional Government, according to the Declaration of Korean Independence,” and that, “The constitution of the Korean Provisional Government, which was founded as part of the March First Independence Movement, stipulated that the Republic of Korea was a democratic republic and that the sovereignty of the nation resided in the people.”
For the first time after his inauguration, President Moon hosted a ceremony to mark the March First Independence Movement at the Seodaemun Prison History Hall. The venue is a former prison where independence activists during colonial times were tortured and underwent other hardships. During the ceremony, President Moon said, “Each and every brick of Seodaemun Prison is etched with the noble stories of defiance in the face of hardship and death. I feel that I can hear the calls for Korea’s independence even now.”
Moreover, he added that “Today, we are gathered here to commemorate the living, breathing spirit of this significant day, in a historic place of the independence movement. We are not just holding a perfunctory ceremony.”
President Moon noted that the candlelight rallies of 2016 and 2017 explicitly showed the way in which “we managed to revive the history of popular sovereignty that was initiated by the March First Independence Movement.” The president said, “The spirit of the March First Independence Movement and the lives of the independence activists will be incorporated into the mainstream of the history of the Republic of Korea.”
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President Moon stated his plans to uncover any remaining historical traces of the independence activists and their movement in Chongqing, China, saying that, “The headquarters of the Liberation Army in Chongqing will be restored in time for the 100th anniversary of the Provisional Government.”
“We are capable of accomplishing peace ourselves,” said President Moon, adding that, “The March First Independence Movement and the 100th anniversary of the founding of Republic of Korea will be a new starting point for the establishment of permanent peace and the prosperity that is based on peace.”
“We need to set right past wrongs by ourselves,” he said, referring to recent acts made by the Tokyo government concerning territorial claims and the resolution of issues surrounding people who were coerced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese armed forces during colonial times and the Second World War. “I just hope that as our geographically closest neighbor, Japan would be able to move forward with us toward a future that is based on sincere self-reflection and reconciliation.”
As the ceremony ended, President Moon and first lady Kim Jung-sook marched toward Independence Gate holding aloft a large Taegeukgi national flag, and participated in three rounds of cheering alongside all the other marchers.