Every country loves to celebrate its Independence or Foundation Day. While many such national holidays have become celebratory days for friends and family, there is always a thread of proud nationalism that runs through them. Korean Independence Day, Gwangbokjeol, which was won only 69 years ago, is ruffling some Japanese’s feathers as relations between the two countries continues to strain. This year, some images of children celebrating have caught the attention of not only Japanese media, but Chinese media as well!
Gwangbokjeol, translated as the Restoration of Light Day, is celebrated every year on August 15 in South Korea. It marks the date when Korea was released from Japan’s colonial rule at the end of World War II and the establishment of North and South Korean governments three years later in 1948.
The Korean national flag can be seen everywhere on this day. Each year, a huge ceremony and celebration is held in front of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts (Sejong Center). Attendees at the center usually include the President of South Korea, high ranking government officials, contributors to the independence movement, diplomats and people from all over the world. Around the city, independence activists are honored and their family members and descendants can visit many museums and use public transportation for free.
Besides the main celebration event at the Sejong Center, there were many related activities running all over the city. One of them included the attendance of “Japanese” soldiers that were taken down by the gaggle of children in support of their country, or maybe just trying to join in on some summer fun.
With tensions between Japan and Korea still running quite high, it may come as no surprise that these pictures of Korean children “executing” Japanese soldiers with water guns are causing a controversy. Japanese netizens are reacting very strongly to this kind of celebration, and some are even requesting the UN look into the matter. Although, if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un can’t get UN action regarding the Hollywood movie, The Interview, then these commenters probably shouldn’t be expecting very much.
“It is impossible for me to come to like this country.”
“Hey, Members of the UN…are you going to stay silent on this?”
“And yet, if something like this happened in Japan, there would be a huge uproar.”
“I’m starting to think that Korea is a third world country.”
“There’s no helping weak people. Let them do what they want.”
“What century are we in? Until when are they going to keep doing nonsense like that?”
“A country that is not that different from North Korea. Or rather…worse than…”
“Isn’t this on par with hate speech?”
“Members of the UN…isn’t this sort of imprinting a really bad idea on children?”
It isn’t clear whether this water gun “execution” was a new kind of celebration event or just being picked up by foreign media this year, but this isn’t the first time Japan has had issue with how Koreans celebrate. Perhaps Koreans should be a little more sensitive to the image of Korean children “killing Japanese”, but it also seems like a fun way for kids to celebrate their country’s independence. Everyone certainly has a right to be proud of their own country.