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Long live August 15, 1945!
an excerpt from "The left-right confrontation in Korea – Its origin"
Kim Young Sik, Ph.D.
I was born in 1935 and have seen many moons in my long life. In looking back, I can say without any hesitation that August 15, 1945 was the happiest day in my life. On that day, nearly sixty years ago, Korea was set free at last. For the first time in many decades, Korea was one, united under the flag of Korean nationalism. All across Korea – North and South, Communists and non-Communists – people waved Tae-guk-ki (the Korean flag) and sang the Korean anthem – “May God protect Korea until the East Sea dries up and Mt. Paikdu is worn down level – (Dong-hae mul-ga baiktu-san-i marugo dalto-rok, hana-nimi boho-hasa,,)”.
I was about 10 years old at the time. I made my own version of Tae-guk-ki, the Korean flag. No one was sure of the exact specs or what the bars meant. It seemed that everyone had his own design. But, it mattered not, if the homemade flags were not quite drawn right or the anthem was sung to a foreign tune, auld lang syne (the tune in use today came years later). We were one happy nation, one happy family – all Koreans were brothers and sisters (ab-ba uhn-ni), uncles and aunts (ajuh-ssi adjumuhni), and grandpa and grandma (hara-buji halmuh-ni).
Total strangers offered food and shelters to fellow countrymen. Those who had food shared them with those less fortunate – and there were many hungry homeless refugees from Manchuria. Displaced families, driven away by mobs in China. Terror stricken refugees fled across the Yalu River and poured into Hyesan and Kapsan. The poor refugees lived in damp bomb shelters, cardboard shacks, and in the open. We shared what we had and helped them in anyways we could. Koreans helping each other made all of us happy and proud.
Yo Un Hyong assured Gen. Abe that all Japanese nationals in Korea would be protected and cared for until their repatriation to Japan. Over 700,000 Japanese were stranded in South Korea and 200,000 in North Korea by the sudden collapse of the Japanese Empire. The number of the Japanese in North Korea swelled with floods of Japanese refugees and soldiers from Manchuria. The Korean people would protect them and no harm would come to them, Yo promised Gen. Abe, and the Korean people lived up to Yo’s promise.
The Yo Un Hyong established "People's Committees" in all of the thirteen provinces of Korea. The committees took control of local administrative and police functions from the Japanese authorities. The very first action of Yo's de facto government of Korea was to form a people’s militia (chi-anh-dae or bo-ahn-dae) to protect the Japanese citizens stranded in Korea and also to secure public order. Largely college and high school students manned chi-ahn-dae.
Korean teachers took over schools and textbooks in Korean appeared in no time at all. Koreans took over power utilities; water and sewage, phone, street maintenance, fire stations, radio stations and public health facilities, and everything ran smoothly. Literally overnight, the Korean people formed their own government and took over all governing functions from the Japanese, with the complete and full cooperation of the departing Japanese. The transition of power could not have been any smoother.
Koreans from all walks of life and political ideology worked in harmony, side by side, for the good of Korea. In that brief time period, the Korean people proved that they were fully capable of governing their own country.
On September 6, 1945, representatives from the people’s committees from all corners of Korea met in Seoul and proclaimed the Korean People’s Republic (KPR - Chosun In Min Kong Wha Guk). The KPR cabinet included Syngman Rhee (president), Yo Un Hyong (vice president), Ho Hon (prime minister), Kim Gu (interior minister), Kim Pyong No (justice minister), Kim Gyu Sik (foreign minister), Ha Pil Won (economy and trade minister), Cho Man Sik (finance minister), Shin Ik Hui (communications minister), Kim Il Sung (defense minister) and Kim Song Su (education minister).
The KPR cabinet was truly representative of the political spectrum of Korea of the time. It included anti-Communists like Rhee Syngman, Kim Gu, and Shin Ik Hui; Communists and leftists like Kim Il Sung, Yo Un Hyong, Cho Man Sik, and Kim Gyu Sik. It should be noted that the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai (KPG) was also a coalition government and included Communists and non-Communists. Yo was also involved in the formation of the KPG.
Kim Young Sik is editor of Korea WebWeekly.
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