In Korea, today is 광복절 (光復節) – Liberation Day, which commemorates Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allies on August 15, 1945, which ended not only the Pacific War in Asia (1941 – 1945) but also 35 years of Japanese Occupation of Korea (1910 – 1945).  Also celebrated as “Victory over Japan Day” in a few other countries, today is an Asian counterpart to “Liberation Day” or “Victory in Europe Day” (May 8 or 9) of many European countries which remember Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, ending 6 years of the World War II.  Many countries in Europe were liberated from the Nazi Occupation after 4 ~ 6 years, whereas for Korea, it was one entire generation (35 years) that suffered unspeakable atrocities from the brutal rule for “annihilation of national identity” (민족 말살 정책), designed and committed by the Japanese.  

Many of you might as well realize how much more severe it was in terms of its duration and extent, and perhaps, understand why it is still so challenging to build a genuine friendship between the two nations, Korea and Japan. The elites of both countries should make extra efforts to accomplish a better relationship. Furthermore, for you the learners of Korean culture who will play the role of international bridges such as diplomats or translators, etc., it is of paramount importance to learn more about this traumatic period in Asian history to understand the collective psyche of today’s ordinary Koreans. 

The ramifications of this significant day unfolded limitlessly in the history of East Asia. Japan was immediately occupied by the Allies and ruled by the United States for 7 years (1945 – 1952). In Korea, despite the Allies’ initial plan for a unified post-war Korea, escalating Cold War antagonism between the Soviet Union and the U.S. eventually led to the establishment of separate governments, resulting in the division of Korea into two political entities: North Korea and South Korea. In the South, the first Republic of Korea was founded on August 15, 1948, the same day three years later.

No wonder this day is one of the most important holidays in Korea. Its aptly metaphorical name “광복절” means “the Day of Restoration of Light” in English: 光 광 (light); 復 복 (restoration, recovery); 節 절 (holiday).

And God saw the light, and it was good, and God divided the light from the darkness.

Gen. 1:4

안돼, 제발, 안돼! No, please, No!

왜놈들이, 왜놈들이 다시 옵니다 The Japanese are coming back

저런 죽일 놈들이 Those bastards

애기씨를… (Protect) the Lady…

“요셉, 조선인들은 참 변한 것이 없습니다.” “Joseph, the Joseon people haven’t changed at all”

저 여인 하나 구한다고 조선이 구해지는 게 아니오 Saving that one woman won’t save Joseon

구해야 하오 I must save her 

어느 날엔가 저 여인이 내가 될 수도 있으니까 Because, some day, she may become like me

“저 여인이 그토록 목숨을 걸고 지키려한 조선이 이번엔 저 여인을 지키고 있습니다”

The country that woman tried to protect so much, risking her life, is protecting her this time.”

안돼! No! 

왜 (倭) Ancient name of Japan 

왜놈 Japanese [ pejorative – an insult (any word ending in 놈 is mostly an insult) ]

다시 again 

오다 to come

죽일 놈 ‘bastard (that should be killed)’ [ pejorative, idiomatic ]

애기씨 Lady = 아씨 [ archaic; how commoners and servants called a young noblewoman in the Joseon era ]

참 really = 참으로 

변하다 to change; 변한 것이 없다 … didn’t change at all [ Literally, “there is nothing that has changed”; idiomatic ]

여인 woman [ elegant word for 여자 ]

구하다 to save 

구해야 한다 must save … [ (verb)-야 한다 must … ]

되다 to become; 

될 수도 있다 may become [ (verb)-ㄹ 수도 있다 may … (possibility) ] 

될 수도 있으니까 because … may become [ (verb)-(으)니까 because … ]

그토록 so much, like that

목숨 life (as in “life of death”); 목숨을 걸다 to risk one’s life 

지키다 to protect; 지키려하다 to try to protect [ (verb)-려하다 to try to … ]

조선 Joseon [ Korea’s last dynastic kingdom (1392 – 1897) ]

이번엔 this time 

저 that [ demonstrative adjective ]

지키고 있다 to be protecting [ (verb)-고 있다 to be … ing:  present progressive tense ]

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