Celebrating Jung Jung-Hwa and the 72nd Anniversary of Korean Independence

August 15, 2017, marks the 72nd year of Korean independence. Korea shares this independence day with India and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I would like to remember the story of Jung Jung-Hwa, who infiltrated Korea six times to raise funds for the government in exile. The government in exile would not have been able to operate as long as it had if it weren't for her bravery and service.

Her memoir, Nok-Du Flower, offers a rare glimpse at the day-to-day of the Government in Exile and independence activists. She is well-studied, but not well-known.

I would like to thank Women News Korea, 여성신문사. Their book, "이야기 여성사," was critical to my research on Jung Jung-Hwa.

"압록강 건너 저 불빛이 조국의 등불이다"


"That light beyond the Yalu River is the lamp of our ancestral nation"

-Jung Jung Hwa

The March 1st Movement Rocks the Peninsula

Demonstrators gather in Seoul's East Gate. (Source: 한국근현대사사전)

Demonstrators gather in Seoul's East Gate. (Source: 한국근현대사사전)

For 35 years, Koreans fought against the three phases of Imperial Japanese occupation (1910-1945). The most famous protest during the occupation was the March 1st Movement.

Kim Ga Jin (Source: 미상, 조선귀족열전, 朝鮮貴族列傳)

Kim Ga Jin (Source: 미상, 조선귀족열전, 朝鮮貴族列傳)

Over 2 million people demonstrated Japanese rule, and the crackdown by the police was brutal. Approximately 46 thousand were arrested, 10 thousand were injured and 7 thousand people died during the demonstrations.

The movement inspired many to pursue independence at home and abroad, including Dongnong Kim Ga Jin (金嘉鎭).

Kim Ga Jin was a master scribe and a high-ranking late-Chosun official. Kim attempted suicide in 1905 when the Japanese stripped Korea of its diplomatic powers and established the Japanese Resident General of Korea. Still, the Japanese named him a Baron, alongside the 75 most powerful non-royal Koreans. Only seven of the nobles who were awarded titles renounced them.

Following the March 1st movement, the elderly Kim gave up his title and moved to Shanghai to assist the Government in Exile. He was the highest-ranking official to join the independence movement at the time. Kim's son followed him to Shanghai, leaving his family behind in Korea.

At age 74, Kim helped raise funds for the Government in Exile by writing letters to people back in Korea.


However, none of this would have been possible without his daughter-in-law, Jung Jung-Hwa.


Jung Jung-Hwa and The Escape to Shanghai

Jung Jung-Hwa (Birth Name: Jung Myo-Hyi) was born into a very powerful family with two-generations of high-ranking officials. When she was 11 years-old, her grandfather pressured her to marry Kim Ga Jin's son by telling her parents it was his dying wish. Jung and Kim were both 11 years-old. Thus, Jung joined the powerful Andong Kim (金) family (930 B.C. ~).

Eight years later, Jung was left behind in Korea by her husband and father-in-law.

"그런데 나는 전혀 몰랐어요. 시아버님과 남편이 함께 나가고 얼마 지난 후에 시어머니께서 신문 한 장을 보여주시대요.

거기에 보니 시아버님과 남편이 국내를 빠져나가 상해로 망명했다는 기사가 놔와 있더군요. 그냥 어안이 벙벙했죠."

"I didn't have a clue. A little after my father-in-law and husband left, my mother-in-law showed me a page from the news papers.

There was an article that said my father-in-law and husband had left the country to seek asylum in Shanghai. I was dumbstruck."


26 Years in the Resistance

Jung Jung-Hwa (center) pictured with her family in Shanghai.

Jung Jung-Hwa (center) pictured with her family in Shanghai.

Jung Jung-Hwa decided to help her father-in-law in Shanghai, but she was now under surveillance. In January, 1920, Jung evaded surveillance for 10 days and crossed the border to China.

She expected the grand appearance of a government. She was wrong.

Everyone in the Government in Exile had poor living standards. Jung was appalled by how her husband and father-in-law were living, and sought to return to Korea and ask her family for funds. When the Government in Exile learned of her plans, it embedded her in the secretive communications network. She infiltrated Korea in six missions and raised funds for the Government in Exile.

Jung evaded surveillance and approached the rich and powerful of Korea, delivering her father-in-law's letters. During her missions, Jung crossed the Yalu river on a raft, acted as a tailor and sometimes traveled alongside a sympathizer working for the Japanese as a detective.

Jung carried out these missions through war zones when the Sino-Japanese War began.

Jung was captured crossing the Yalu on her third mission, was interrogated for two days, and released in to Korea. When Kim Ga Jin passed away, Jung used it as a reason for traveling to Shanghai. She completed three more missions for the Government in Exile.

"Those who had less gave more, with less hesitation. Those who had more had that much more fear."

"그때 보니 오히려 없는 사람들이 더 선선히 내놓습니다. 가진게 많은 사람들은 그 가진 것만큼 겁도 많더군요."

Yoon Bong-Gil pictured with his manifesto, pistol and bomb.

Yoon Bong-Gil pictured with his manifesto, pistol and bomb.

Jung also helped raise funds for and manage transporting the Government in Exile. It was no easy feat moving 100 people around China approximately 12 times. She cooked and cleaned for the members of the Government in Exile during travel.

The Government in Exile and Koreans living in China were persecuted by the Chinese, making operations and travel difficult. The Japanese invasion of Manchuria further complicated matters, and the government sought ways to deescalate tensions.

In 1932, Yoon Bong-Gil successfully assassinated Yoshinori Shirakawa, the commander in chief of the Shanghai Expeditionary Army. The assassination took place at an event celebrating Emperor Hirohito's birthday, and the Japanese victory in the first Shanghai Incident. Yoon also managed to injure military leaders involved in the Japanese invasion of Korea. He was tried and executed in Japan. He was 25.

The French condemned the attack and released the Korean Government in Exile from its protection. Rhee Syng-Man, future-president of the ROK, also condemned the assassination.

The Chinese commended the assassination.

"A young Korean patriot who has accomplished something tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers could not do," Chang Kai Shek, the President of the Chinese Republic, said of Yoon Bong-Gil.

After the assassination of Shirakawa, the Chinese government began to provide the Korean Government in Exile. Chang Kai Shek's government provided buses during these times. It eased the burden on Jung Jung-Hwa and the government in exile.

The fight for independence was revitalized by Yoon Bong-Gil's actions. The government remained frugal, calling Chinese support the "blood price" of Yoon Bong-Gil. Jung Jung-Hwa witnessed the dispatch of Yoon by Kim Koo. She noted it was one of the rare times Kim Koo drank.


Liberation, Colonialism and Tragedy

Jung Jung-Hwa and her family returned to Korea in 1946, but Kim Ga-Jin's remains were left in Shanghai. Unlike her expectations, she found Korea was still wrestling with the remnants of colonialism. The United States left the governing structures of Imperial Japan in place, and refused to acknowledge the Government in Exile.

"해방된 조국으로 돌아와 보니 과거의 친일파, 일제의 악질 경찰 출신 들이 오히려 세도를 부리고 있었어요. 그걸 보니 참 기분이 묘하더군요."

"I returned to a liberated ancestral nation, but found that the collaborators with the Japanese and the worst of the police from the Japanese occupation were those who gained the most post. It felt weird to see that."

Jung Jung-Hwa worked with BaekBum Kim Koo to try and establish a United Korean government, and opposed a divided trustee government ruled by the United States and the Soviets. Kim and Jung sought to postpone the establishment of a Korean government before unification could occur, and attempted negotiations with the North. Future-President Rhee supported a divided, trustee government, and won out when Kim Koo's negotiations failed. Kim Koo continued to advocate for a unified Korea, and was assassinated in 1949.

Jung Jung-Hwa and her husband wanted to retrieve Kim Ga-Jin's remains from Shanghai, but were unable to return to the now-Communist China. During the Korean War, Jung's husband was kidnapped by the North Koreans.


Independence in 2017

President Moon was the first sitting President of South Korea to give thanks at Kim Koo's grave on the anniversary of Independence Day.

In many ways, Kim Koo's vision of a fully-independent Korea hasn't been realized.

  • The United States holds command of South Korea's military. This means Trump is the de facto commander in chief of South Korea.
  • Korea is not unified. There are families that will never know their relatives across the 38th parallel.
  • The Japanese companies that used forced labor, such as Mitsubishi, still have not paid for their crimes. My paternal grandparents were forced laborers during the occupation.
  • There are around 200 monuments commemorating Japanese colonial rule left in South Korea.

There was some progress made in repairing Korea-Japan relations this year. The names of roughly 700 Koreans, who fought and died as forced draftees on Okinawa, were added to the memorial.

However the Japanese Prime Minister sent an offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, where war criminals are honored. This move is expected to raise tensions with China and South Korea, both of whom are needed to deal with the DPRK (North Korea). The South Korean Foreign Ministry has already issued a statement denouncing the act.

Samuel Park