Memorial Day in South Korea is observed annually on June 6. This day was set aside by the South Korean government in honor of the brave soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the Korean war, and other significant wars of the federation. It is a public holiday observed by the entire nation in reverence of the lost souls.
History of Memorial Day in South Korea
As all memorial days go, Memorial Day in South Korea is a day set aside to remember those that have passed away. However, this day is significant and specific to the souls of the fallen soldiers of the South Korean army, particularly those that were lost during the cause of the Korean War.
Long before there were two separate sides, there was the one Republic of Korea. For 35 years, starting in 1910, Korea was under Japanese rule, and within those years, two very important battles were fought — the Battle of Bongoh Town and the Battle of Cheongsanri.
Both battles were fought in the same year, ten years after Korea’s annexation into the empire of Japan, with the first occurring earlier and lasting for a day and the second occurring later in the year, lasting for over six days. These separate battles had a similar goal which was Korea’s fight to become a separate independent state.
Fast forward to the end of World War II and the surrender of imperial Japan, the United States and the Soviet Union divided Korea into two zones of operation. South Korea was placed under the administration of America and the United Nations, while North Korea was under the control of the Soviet Union.
Neither of the governors of each state accepted this border division, each claiming to be the legitimate government over all of Korea. This led to a three years long war known as the Korean War, which also became the first war in which the United Nations played a military role. The war was one of the most destructive conflicts of the modern era and came to an end with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement which created the Korean Demilitarized Zone (D.M.Z.), officially separating both zones. Memorial Day in South Korea has been observed annually since 1956.
Memorial Day in South Korea timeline
The Battle of Bongoh Town is fought in June, and the Battle of Cheongsanri is fought in October.
Imperial Japan surrenders after World War II, leading to the de-annexation of Korea.
The Korean War begins and lasts for three years.
Memorial Day in South Korea is declared a public holiday on April 19, to be observed annually on June 6.
Memorial Day in South Korea FAQs
How many lives were lost in the Korean War?
The Korean War was one of the most destructive conflicts of the modern era, with a death toll of approximately three million people, and a larger civilian death toll than World War II and the Vietnam War.
Who won the Korean War?
There was no distinct winner of the Korean War, as it ended with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement which was signed by the United Nations Command, the Korean People’s Army, and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. This armistice simply ceased hostilities on both sides until a final peaceful settlement is achieved, which is still yet to be reached.
Is there a memorial day in North Korea?
As of today, there is still no official memorial day observed in North Korea. Memorial Day in South Korea is a public holiday and observance for only the citizens of South Korea, and on this day North Korea celebrates the Korean Children’s Union Foundation Day.
How to Observe Memorial Day in South Korea
Attend the memorial service
Every year on this day, a memorial service ceremony is held in Seoul National Cemetery. This service is attended by the president, and other government officials, and is open to all members of the public. So if you find yourself in South Korea on this day, this is the best way to observe the day and pay your respects to the fallen soldiers.
Say a prayer
Another practice that is observed on this day is a minute-long dedication to prayers. At 10 A.M. sirens ring across the country, alerting people to have a minute of silence and prayer for the departed. At this time, the entire country stops, including all movement and traffic, and the time is dedicated to a short prayer. You can join the people of South Korea in observing this quiet time at this moment on this day.
Visit the burial grounds
If you miss the memorial service itself, that’s okay. You can still take some time out whenever is convenient for you within the day to visit the Seoul National Cemetery. This is where you would find the tombstones of all military members and civilians that were killed in the war. You can take it a step further by placing some flowers on tombstones to pay your respects.
5 Facts About The Korean War
It is still going on
Seeing as neither North nor South Korea signed a peace treaty to end the war, both countries are still in a state of a ‘frozen war’.
It was part of the Cold War
The Korean War was the first battle in the Cold War, which was a global struggle between communist and democratic governments.
North Korea suffered a lot of bombing
The U.S. dropped more bombs on North Korea than it did on the entire Pacific in World War II.
Not all injuries were battle scars
Due to the extremely cold temperatures, thousands of military personnel suffered from frostbites and trench foot.
Seoul was the most wanted
The South Korean capital, Seoul was captured and seized a total of four times during the war.
Why Memorial Day in South Korea is Important
It’s a day for honor
This day is all about honoring the lives of fallen soldiers of the South Korean army. It highlights their fearless service to the military and country and monumentally honors their lives.
It reminds us of the military’s sacrifices
Memorial Day in South Korea also reminds us of the brave service of not only the members of the South Korean military but all military service members across the world. It’s a day that allows us to acknowledge their fearless sacrifices in protecting the lives of civilians.
It’s important to the history of South Korea
The Korean War, the Battle of Bongoh Town, and the Battle of Cheongsanri are all important fights in the history of the people of Korea. This also makes this day just as important to its people as it serves as a reminder of those monumental aspects of their history.
Memorial Day in South Korea dates