New Horizon; Feb. 8 Declaration of Independence (II)

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), April 4, 2000 | Go to article overview

New Horizon; Feb. 8 Declaration of Independence (II)


Unlike the text of the ``March 1st Declaration of Independence'' (3-1 DI), the text of the ``February 8 Declaration of Independence `` ( 2-8 DI) has not been readily available in Korea and only a few academic sources printed its full text.

Its English version was originally translated by Yi Kwang-su, the very drafter of the ``2.8 DI'', and reviewed by Rev. Henry M. Landes ( 1857 ? 1921) who was on the way to the U.S. after completing his mission on Korea.

Before February 8, 1919, Yi Kwang-su smuggled out of Japan with the English version of the ``2.8 DI'' Yi called 2-8 DI to the heads of the U.S., U.K. and France on February 8. At the same time, Yi arranged with the China Press and the North China Daily News to publish the full text of English version of the ``2-8 DI'' to published its full text of the ``2-8DI'' on February 8 and respectively. In this way the English version of the `` 2-8 DI'' performed a historical mission of transmitting the message of the Korea students in Tokyo to the world wide audience.

In spite of the special historical significance of the English version of the``2.8 DI,'' it is available in Korea only in the archive of the Independence Hall in Chonan. Even the Library of National Assembly does not hold a copy of it.

Even though it is long overdue, it would be highly befitting and perhaps mandatory to make the English version of the `` 2-8DI'' be available to the indigenous and foreign readers.

A DECLARATION

The `` Korean Young Men's League for National Independence'' representing their twenty million fellow country men, hereby declare before all nations which enjoy the glorious victory of Justice and Freedom that we desire to restore the sovereign independence of Korea by applying the principle of self- determination also to the Korea people.

The Korean nation is one of the most ancient nations that have established and maintained an organized and a higher civilization, leading an unbroken history through the course of more than forty centuries. Although it is true that at some periods Korea was placed under the suzerainty of the Emperor of China, that was no more than a nominal relation between the two ruling families without affecting the sovereign power of self rule on the part of Korea. It is right to say that Korea has always been the Koreans' own Korea so far as the power of self rule is concerned; she has never been ruled over essentially by any foreign nation. Herein we have the first reasons of independence, viz. that of historical right.

Japan was the first power to recognize and to guarantee the absolute independence of Korea at the Japan-China treaty of peace (1893) as the result of the Japano-Chinese war, declaring that she and the independent Korea were bound to stand and fall together ; this was followed by the western powers in recognising and guaranteeing the same thing. Korea thence forward made the utmost effort in reorganization and completion, hoping to meet the friendly desire of her neighbors. In 1903, Japan persuaded Korea to form an offensive and defensive alliance with her for two common purposes-the maintenance of the peace of the East and the assurance of the absolute independence of Korea. These were then threatened by the aggressive eastward policy of Russia. During the Russo-Japanese war Korea did everything possible in fulfilling her duty toward an ally so much so that she did not care even to shrink from offering the service of her sovereign power in order to acquire the assurance of her absolute independence and the eternal peace of the East. With all this, she however was not permitted to be represented at the peace conference at which Japan's suzerainty over Korea was decided. This fact was witnessed by the late Roosevelt, being then President of the United States America and the mediator between Russia and Japan. Then in spite of the previous promise to guarantee the absolute independence of Korea, Japan, upon the strength of her superior militant force, forced the Emperor of Korea and his ministers to hand the foreign affairs over to Japan `` until Korea would become capable of resuming her absolute independence `` the real purpose of Japan being to isolate Korea from the world, and to be able to do whatsoever she please with Korea. …

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