On August 15, Koreans celebrate Gwangbokjeol, Korean Liberation Day. Gwangbokjeol is composed of the words gwang meaning “light,” bok meaning “restoration,” and jeol meaning “holiday.” Gwangbokjeol translates to “the day the light was restored.”
What is South Korean Liberation Day?
Korean Liberation Day is the day when Korea was free from Japanese imperialism after being under their rule for 35 years. Three years after Korea was liberated from Japanese rule, the Republic of Korea was established.
Some people refer to Korean Liberation Day as Korea’s Independence Day, but you will often hear Koreans making the distinction between independence and restoration to stress that Korea was a nation on its own, for centuries, before Japanese rule.
To exert their dominance during the time when Japan occupied Korea, Japan took over all aspects of Korean society, most notably waging a war on Korean culture.
Japan did things such as cutting down trees native to Korea and replacing them with foreign species, to change the once familiar landscape into some unrecognizable to Koreans.
Koreans were forced to worship at Shinto Shrines that were built from forced donations from Koreans.
Japan heavily enforced the Korean language being banned from being taught in schools.
Many Korean families felt they had no choice but to take on Japanese surnames so that they would be recognized under Japanese rule and thus eligible to receive their mail and ration cards which were official documents used to allow the purchase of clothing, food, and other necessities.
In an attempt to erase Korea’s rich history, thousands of artifacts and books detailing Korea’s history were burned.
An even darker side of Japan’s occupation of Korea was when thousands of Korean women were forced into being comfort women, or sex slaves, to the soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army.
How do Koreans Celebrate the National Liberation Day of Korea?
In Korea, Korean Liberation Day is a public holiday, so people are off from work and school.
Koreans are encouraged to display the Taegukgi, the South Korean national flag, outside of their homes and businesses. The flags also line public streets and are hung outside government buildings as well as on streetlights.
Transportation is free for the day. Many museums are also free to the descendants of the activists who fought for the liberation of Korea.
To celebrate Korean Liberation Day, many parades are held to honor the lives of the Korean people and soldiers who suffered at the hands of Japanese imperialism during that time.
It is common for people also to visit the Independence Hall of Korea in Cheonan, the official location for the ceremony. The President of Korea and other guests attend the ceremony to remember the sacrifices their ancestors made for the freedom of Korea.
People will also visit Seodaemun Prison in Seoul, where many of the liberation fighters were imprisoned and tortured.
Traditional Korean Souvenirs
In celebration of Korean Liberation Day, check out some of the great traditional items that The Daebak Company has, that speak to the history and true essence of Korea.
Hangul is the alphabet of the Korean language. You’ll be sure to be reminded of Korea taking back its power within its language when you grab a pair of hangul consonant socks or a hangul consonant bag.
Want to learn how to speak Korean? The Learn! Korean with BTS package makes it fun and easy as you learn basic conversation with the help of BTS. Don’t forget this hangul notebook to write your notes in while you’re learning Korean.
Ready to test out your hangul knowledge with a fun board game? Check out the Paper Raon game and the Raon Plus Board game. Use the cards and tiles to make Korean words and see how many you can come up with!
Hanbok is a traditional Korean dress. Enjoy the modern take on this traditional outfit with a hanbok that members V and Jungkook of BTS have worn. This hanbok is unisex and comes in five great colors. Because it’s made of cotton, it’s perfect for a spring or autumn outing.
Want to snuggle up in some hanbok after a long day? These Hanbok pajamas will be a great addition to your loungewear. It features a traditional hanbok jeogori design and has been worn by Monsta X members Joohoney and Hyungwon.
Stationery is a great way to appreciate the beauty that is Korean culture.
This set of five pens features a traditional tiger design on the case and each pen has its own unique, eye-catching design.
The Ilwol Obongdo Ballpoint Pen Set also comes with five pens and features an Illwolobongdo design on both the pen case and pens. The Illwolobongdo design is a Korean royal painting that symbolizes authority through its depiction of natural objects.
Add this royal embroidery memo pad to your Korean stationery set, which features 32 Korean royal embroidered items that can be seen in the National Palace Museum of Korea.
Relish in the beauty that is this Handmade Moon Jar Notebook that also comes with a bookmark. The notebook is covered in a woven fabric that has a moon jar stitched into it. Moon jars are traditional Korean white porcelain.
Need a bag for everyday use that has a flair of Korean culture? The Daebak Company has you covered with tons of options to choose from.
The Ceramic Garden cloth bag has a stunning abstract but simplistic design that features the necessary elements to make pottery: earth, fire, water, and creativity.
Check out this porcelain knot bag with a Buncheong pattern, a form of traditional Korean stoneware.
This embroidered passport wallet is a must-have to include in your bag before your next trip to Korea, so you never lose your passport.
With the popularity of the Hallyu wave taking the world by storm, the importance of recognizing the history that is the foundation of Korean culture can be lost amongst the excitement of k-pop and k-dramas.
During the next Korea Liberation Day, take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice that was made in order for Korea to be the country that it is today.