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‘Nurses were independence fighters during March 1 Movement’
  • By Lee Min-ju
  • Published 2019.02.28 14:58
  • Updated 2019.02.28 15:51
  • comments 0

On Friday this week, the nation marks the 100th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement, a national uprising that occurred on March 1, 1919, to fight against the Japanese colonial rule.

As various sectors reexamine independence activists’ contribution to the movement, the nursing community also commemorated the late independence fighter nurses at a recent gathering.

The Korean Nurses Association (KNA) organized a seminar and special exhibition, “Meet Independence Activist Nurses,” at the National Assembly hall on Wednesday.

The Korean Nurses Association (KNA) holds a seminar and special exhibition, “Meet Independence Activist Nurses,” at the National Assembly on Wednesday.

Kang Young-sim, a research fellow at Ewha Historical Research Center of Ehwa Womans University, offered a lecture on the history of nurses’ independence activism before and after the March 1 Movement.

According to Kang, 26 late nurses, including Yim Su-myeong, Park Won-gyeong, and Kim Tae-bok, were excavated as nurse activists. Among them, 16 received conferment of decoration such as a presidential citation.

Before the March 1 Movement, nurses’ activism began as treating injured protesters in Seoul. The participants included doctors and nurses at Severance Hospital and Caring for and Saving Woman's Hospital.

The movement was a catalyst for nurse fighters to become more active. They joined peaceful “manse” (hurray) rallies and collected military funds. They also participated in the Red Cross activities, social movements, intelligence activities, secret communication, and gathered independence fighters.

During the March 1 Movement, nurses distributed the independence declaration and led manse demonstrations from town to town. Nurse Park Won-gyeong brought the independence declaration from Seoul, copied it and distributed the copies in Hwanghae Province. Japanese soldiers arrested her in Jaeryeong-eup for participating in a manse rally.

Nurses, including Lee A-ju, Tak Myeong-suk, and Chae Gye-bok, participated in the second demonstration on March 5, 1919. Other nurses, including Noh Sun-gyeong, Lee Do-sin, Kim Hyo-sun, and Park Deok-hye, joined the manse protest in front of the Royal Mausoleum.

Activist nurses also joined the “Korean Patriotic Women's Association” and the feminist Keun-Woo Association for independence group activities. In foreign countries, including Russia, they supported anti-Japanese organizations’ nurturing of nurses.

They also aided the independence movement. Nurse Jang Yun-hee wrote an independence song called “Gyeongseong Secrete Independence Agent,” and Tak Myeong-suk helped fighter Kang Woo-kyu hide after Kang threw a bomb to assassinate Japanese Governor-General Makoto Saito.

Kang of Ewha Historical Research Center said the nation needs more detailed investigation about nurse independence activists and those uncovered.

Uncovered nurse activists with confirmed names only include Song Jeong-heon, Choi Seung-won, Lee Ae-si, Choi Hye-sun, Kim Eun-do, and Jang Ok-sun, she said.

“Although Korean nurses enjoyed the privilege of having a professional job under the Japanese colonial rule, they used their advantage to devote themselves to the liberation movement,” Kang said. “They fought not only in Korea but in China, the U.S., and Russia.”

Kang expressed regret that only 16 nurses received the conferment of decoration, despite the active participation of many other nurses. “We need to investigate and review the data on the nurses who were unearthed and correct errors by checking the accurate data. We also need research and review of data on nurses who were unexcavated,” she said.

Kim Young-jun, the grandchild of independence fighter Noh Sun-gyeong, said there would be no future for the people who forgot their history.

“We need to study the anti-Japanese independence movements by nurses more systematically and academically,” he said. “We must search for many historical facts and appreciate the accomplishments of the nurses who sacrificed their lives to protect the Korean people.”

In response, the KNA said it would continue searching for more independent activist nurses and make every effort to help them receive the conferment of decoration.

Lee Ja-hyeong, head of the KNA’s special committee to find historical roots of nurses, said the KNA has completed the investigation of 26 nurses who have been covered to date. The committee would finish the research on eight nurses who were additionally excavated within the year, she said.


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