April 19th Revolution

April 19th Revolution reminds me of the EDSA Revolution

It is called the “April 19th Revolution” or simply “April Revolution”. This is the “people power” event that toppled the Rhee Syng Man government. I learned about this on a visit to the National Museum of Contemporary History in Korea. The museum is located beside the US Embassy in Seoul. This revolution is somewhat similar to what we had in the EDSA Revolution of 1986. It just happened earlier in the 1960s.

After World War II, Korea was divided into two ~ the North and South. The latter became the Republic of Korea and adopted a democratic form of government. Rhee Syng Man became the first president of the republic in 1948. Although perceived as a fighter for independence during the Japanese colonial rule, Rhee tried to stay in power for as long as he could. The people were discontented with the corruption plaguing his administration. He wielded so much power and tried to suppress opposition by curtailing the freedom of the press. (Sounds familiar?)

A memorial to the April 19th Revolution
A memorial to the April 19th Revolution

In 1960, a presidential election was held in South Korea and two candidates run against Rhee of the Liberal Party. One of them was accused of being a communist and was executed. While the other died of a heart attack while being treated in the United States. During the Vice Presidential elections, which was held separately at that time, the candidate supported by Rhee won by a landslide. This angered the public claiming that the elections was rigged from the start.

Protest actions against the election fraud began on March 15th in Masan. Thousands joined the protest and several people were gunned down and kidnapped. Another protest action was held on April 11th and it was at this event that a student named Kim Ju Yul was kidnapped, savagely beaten and tortured. The sight of the 16-year old’s badly mutilated body sparked more protests around the country that led to the April 19th Revolution.

A diorama of the events
A diorama of the events

VIDEO OF THE APRIL 19TH REVOLUTION AT THE END OF THIS POST

On April 12th, about 13,000 students and teachers from Masan held another protest in the city. On April 13th, students from Kyungnam University joined the protest. On April 15th, students from Busan and Cheongju started to protest. On April 17th, protesters from other cities held their own rallies.

Mothers were there too
Mothers were there too

On April 18th, about 3,000 students from Korea University held a peaceful protest at the National Assembly demanding a re-election. They were met with violence by thugs hired by the government and about 50 people were injured. On April 19, thousands of students joined the protest marching to the Blue House (the residence of the Korean president). The students from Korea University were joined by students from other universities and their number swell to over 100,000. They were once again met with violence with the police open firing at them with about 100 people dead. This is the start of the April 19th Revolution. Men and women from Incheon, Daejeon, Daegu, Jeollanmado, Jeollabukdo and other big cities took to the streets.

A permanent memorial for the brave souls ~
A permanent memorial for the brave souls ~

On April 25th, the number of protesters outnumbered the government forces and the police and soldiers refused to shoot at the protesters. On April 26th, Rhee Syng Man stepped down as president and blamed his vice president for the corruption in his government. On April 27th, the vice president Lee Ki Pung and his family committed suicide.

While Rhee Syng Man is credited with the establishment of the Republic of Korea, he wasted the trust of his fellowmen because of corruption and the greed for power. He was the president for more than 20 years.

What I find amazing about the April 19th Revolution is the bravery displayed by the students (middle and high school) who started all the protests actions. They are the elderly in Korea now ~

The story of the April 19th Revolution is forever remembered at the April 19th Memorial located in Suyu-dong, Gangbuk-gu in Seoul. It is a beautiful and quiet park at the base of Mt. Bukhan. While the website is all in Korean and the information (as of 2015) at the museum are also in Korean, pamphlets explaining the events are available in English.

A map of the April 19th Memorial
A map of the April 19th Memorial

There is a small museum where one can find information about the events of the April 19th Revolution. At the northern side of the park is a tower dedicated to the teachers and students who started the revolution. Behind it are the tombstones of those who sacrificed their lives ~

Memorial for the lives sacrified
Memorial for the lives sacrified

There is also a pond, benches, pocket gardens and sculptures ~

Rest your mind ~
Rest your mind ~

Location: 서울 강북구 4.19로8길 17 (4.19Ro8Gil 17, Gangbuk-gu, Seoul)
Transportation: Yejeong Station (opening in 2017) OR take bus 1119, 1126 or Gangbuk Village bus 01 from Suyu Station (exit 6)
Entrance: FREE
Websites:
Visit Korea page
4.19 Revolution (in Korean only)
4.19 National Cemetery (in Korean only)

History of the April 19th Revolution

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