Posts Tagged ‘Yangjae’

 

 

Some weeks ago before the weather became too hot I had a spare Sunday afternoon in Seoul before taking the bus back from Seongnam station. I had seen a few weeks previously a nice little picture next to one of the stops on the subway map. I am obsessed about subway maps and stare at them in between my frequent visits to Seoul. I was intrigued by the name and the location of this ‘Citizen’s Forest’ so I decided to investigate.

It is near Yangjae Tollgate on the Gyeongbu Highway if you arrive by car, otherwise it is at the station of the same name (양재시민의숲) on the Sin Bundang line (신분당선). The Sin Bundang Line is worth a trip anyway, it’s one of the only driverless lines in Korea and it goes very fast and doesn’t make the frequent stops like other lines.

This park has great facilities and I had an unexpected and pleasant afternoon there. You can see nature up close, visit the extremely good reflexology path, or you can use the sporting facilities. The main reason for visiting this park on the gateway to Seoul is for the small but comprehensive  Memorial Hall dedicated to Patriot Yun Bong-gil. Many Koreans will know about this patriot but as someone from the West who doesn’t know much about Korea’s struggle for independence I found it all pretty fascinating.

Yun Bong-gil was an exceptionally driven man whose motivation for the liberation of Korea knew no bounds. As a young man he organised many societies and movements in rural areas to further the movement for liberation. At the young age of 23 in 1930 he self-exiled to China saying

‘A man who left home would not return home alive.’

His time in China was spent doing special missions for the Provisional Korean Government in Shanghai. However, in 1932 the Imperial Japanese Army took control of Shanghai. This was the beginning of the events that led to Yun Bong-gil’s greatest sacrifice. The Japanese had scheduled an event in Hongkew Park to celebrate Emperor Hirohito’s birthday. On this day Yun attended the ceremony, acting alone, and threw himself through the crowds, got near the Japanese high command and exploded a bomb. The result of the explosion was the killing and injuring of seven soldiers including commander-in-chief Shiragawa. Yun was arrested and sentenced to death, a punishment he received after he was transferred to Japan. He was only 25 years old when he died.

The effects of this single action were pretty phenomenal. The high command in China was left with a vacuum, damaging Japan’s imperialist ambitions in China. The shocking event led to the global recognition of the Korean Independence movement. Finally, it also cemented the solidarity between Korea and China, both under the control of the expansionist Japanese. Jiang Jieshi stated the following in recognition of Yun’s efforts:

‘One Korean hero executed what a million Chinese soldiers could not perform.’

Quotation from Yun Bong-gil:

‘ Why do people live? To realize their ideals. Purple grasses bloom and the trees bear fruit. I have also decided to bloom my ideals and bear my fruit. I have realized that there is a love in our younger generation far much stronger than love for parents, than love for brothers, and than love for wife and children. The passionate love for our nation and people. I have chosen this path, resolving to follow this passionate love, even though I throw away my rain and dew, my rivers and mountains, and my parents.’

Maehun Memorial Foundation

Yangjae Citizen’s Forest

236 Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul

02 578-3388

www.yubonggil.or.kr 

This information came from the handout in the Memorial Hall written by Shin Yong Ha (Professor of Seoul National University)