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A time to reflect

Mar 01,2017
We are depressed on March 1, the day when our ancestors proudly staged a nationwide independence movement against Japan’s colonial rule 98 years ago. We are embarrassed at the sad reality in which our national flag has become a symbol of national division.

While those protesting the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye are chanting to save the nation with national flags in their hands, others with candles are bent on a “crusade” to rekindle the flame of a struggle to bring down the president.

Our Constitution begins with a preface proclaiming the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea, which inherited the legitimacy of the interim government in Shanghai, which was set up shortly after the independence movement. Why is that?

The Declaration of Independence signed by 33 prominent leaders professed that Joseon was a sovereign country with independent people. At the same time, it adhered to the spirit of nonviolence, calling for the building of a nation of our own — not destroying others — and encouraging our own awakening — not blaming or resenting others. Championing the farsighted values of a “Permanent Peace in East Asia,” the declaration denounced Japan’s imperial ambition with dignity, while urging a revival of the Korean culture at the same time. Buddhist reformer and poet Han Yong-un pleaded with the people to abandon intransigence and respect the order to make our positions clear.

Another lesson from the declaration is integration of our people beyond the boundaries of ideology, region and class. The 33 leaders embraced Christianity, Buddhism and other indigenous religions. Amid the rapid proliferation of socialist ideology after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, all the people were united under the banner of sovereignty.

The establishment of an interim government in Shanghai after the declaration was inevitable. On April 11, 1919, the provisional government enacted and promulgated a charter which defined it as a democratic republic after specifying the scope of the people’s freedom, rights and responsibilities.

March 1 is the day when we should remind us of the true values of the Declaration of Independence — such as unity and nonviolence — in memory of our forefathers’ devotion and sacrifice. It is also a day to reflect on the proud tradition of the independence movement. What do protesters sharply divided over the presidential impeachment have to do with the legacy of the movement? We hope they do not disappoint their ancestors this day.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 1, Page 26