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Liberation Day of Korea
South Korean name
Hangul 광복절
Hanja 光復節
Revised Romanization Gwangbokjeol
McCune–Reischauer Kwangbokchŏl
North Korean name
Hangul 조국해방의 날
Hanja 祖國解放의 날
Revised Romanization Jogukhaebangui nal
McCune–Reischauer Chogukhaebang'ŭi nal

Gwangbokjeol (meaning "the day the light returned"), also called as the National Liberation Day of Korea, celebrated annually on August 15, is one of the public holidays in South Korea. It commemorates Victory over Japan Day, which liberated Korea from colonial rule.

Independent Korean governments were created three years later, on August 15, 1948, when the pro-Soviet Kim Il-sung was made first Premier of North Korea and pro-U.S. Syngman Rhee was made first President of South Korea. Gwangbokjeol was officially designated a public holiday on October 1, 1949 in South Korea[1] and is known as Chogukhaebangŭi nal. (조국해방의 날; literally "Liberation of Fatherland Day") in North Korea.[2]

Public holiday

Liberation day poster in Pyongyang, North Korea

In South Korea, many activities and events happen during the day, including an official ceremony with the president in attendance that takes place at the Independence Hall of Korea in Cheonan[1] or at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.[3]

All buildings and homes are encouraged to display the South Korean national flag Taegukki. Not only are most public museums and places open free of charge to the descendants of independence activists on the holiday, but they can also travel on both public transport and intercity trains for free.[1]

The official "Gwangbokjeol song" (광복절 노래) is sung at official ceremonies. The song's lyrics were written by Jeong Inbo (정인보) and the melody by Yoon Yongha (윤용하).[1] The lyrics speak of "to touch the earth again" and how "the sea dances", how "this day is the remaining trace of 40 years of passionate blood solidified" and to "guard this forever and ever".[4]

The government traditionally issues special pardons on Gwangbokjeol.[5][6]

In 1974, Yuk Young-soo, First Lady of South Korea and spouse of Park Chung-hee, was assassinated by Mun Se-gwang at the National Theater of Korea in Seoul during a Gwangbokjeol ceremony.

Popular culture

  • The special pardons given out on Gwangbokjeol are the subject of a South Korean comedy, Jail Breakers (Korean title Gwangbokjeol Teuksa 광복절특사, literally "Gwangbokjeol special pardon"), where the two main characters break out of prison only to find out later that they were already on the special pardon list.
  • The Peak aka Life of Lee Youk-sa, the Poet who Embraced Epoch, starring Kim Dong-wan of boyband Shinhwa is a two-part special drama broadcast on MBC to commemorate Gwangbokjeol. It is on the life of poet and independence activist, Lee Youk-sa, who lived during the Japanese Colonial Period, and died in prison at 40 leaving behind some 40 pieces of poetry.[7]
  • The third drama rendition of Park Gyeong-ni's epic novel Toji (literally "The Land"), is a 52-episode historical drama which aired from 27 November 2004 to 22 May 2005, was broadcast by South Korean broadcaster SBS as commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Gwangbokjeol; and the only drama rendition after all 21 volumes were completed.[8] Starring Kim Hyun-joo & Yoo Jun-sang, it is set mainly in Pyeongsa Village, Agyang Town, Hadong County, South Gyeongsang Province, and it depicts the various lives centered around the multi-hectare land of the Choi House, spanning three generations from 1894 to 15 August 1945; with the last part of the last episode depicting part of the Gyokuon-hōsō.


  1. ^ Dunn et al., 1983, p. 473
  • South Korea Independence Day at
  • South Korea Independence Day at Holidays around the World

External links

  • The Independence Hall of Korea
  • (Korean) , video clip made in 1958Gwangbokjeol Song at the Ministry of Public Administration and Security's official blog
  • Gwangbokjeol Song at the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs
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