Post-128: August 15th Independence Day

August 6th: An American atomic bomb destroys Hiroshima.
August 9th: An American atomic bomb destroys Nagasaki.
August 15th, 12:00 Noon: The Emperor of Japan announces Japanese surrender via radio.
August 15th, 12:01 PM: The Japanese Empire is dissolved; all overseas possessions are released. The war is over.

And so it goes that Koreans celebrate August 15th as Independence Day (광복절). (Or, some do. I had to work a full day. Mandatory. Overtime pay, at least. So they say.)

Students were depressed/sullen about being compelled to “study” on a national holiday. Speaking of students: North Korea teaches its youth that August 15th was when Japan surrendered to Kim Il-Sung’s triumphant rebel army. A sheer fantasy. South Korean education has, from what I gather, a trace of that kind of thing, too. Students have expressed to me their idea that Japan was partly compelled to surrender because of pressure from Korean rebels.

Koreans put more emotion into another “independence day”, March 1st. A nationalistic anti-Japanese uprising occurred in 1919 on that day. It failed, but it was a native-Korean effort all around. (In fact, Japan largely controlled Korea as a puppet from the 1890s or even 1880s, and fully-annexed Korea in 1910. That means that in 1945, only the very oldest of Koreans could remember a truly independent Korea. Syngman Rhee [born 1875] may have been one.)

March 1st is untouchable. I’ve never heard of anyone working on it. It’s also the beginning of the Korean school year.

At 2:00 PM (or sixty-eight years and two hours after independence), I met a friend, J.A., for a lunch of kong-guk-su (콩국수, a summer food) at “Kimbap Heaven”. He works at another hagwon (language institute). His is in the Sang-Dong neighborhood of Bucheon. J.A. had this national holiday off, unlike me.

It was a lively meeting. I talked very quickly, knowing I had to be teaching again by 3:00. / J.A. is in better spirits than I’ve ever seen him, I think. He was excited to learn a very-big “Starbucks” is opening right below my workplace.


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