From Empire to Republic
From Empire to Republic: Centennial Anniversary of March 1st Independence Movement and Korea Provisional Government
To commemorate the Centennial Anniversary of March 1st Independence Movement and Korea Provisional Government, the National Museum of Korea proudly presents the special exhibition From Empire to Republic: Centennial Anniversary of March 1st Independence Movement and Korea Provisional Government. On April 11, 1919, with Korea languishing under Japanese colonial rule, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea was established, continuing the surge for freedom and independence that had begun with the March 1st Movement of that year. From then until the restoration of Korean independence in 1945, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea served as the core of the independence movement, actively resisting the Japanese colonial rulers and striving to regain national sovereignty. By taking a closer look at how these remarkable freedom fighters overcame the oppression of Japanese colonial rule to found the Republic of Korea, this exhibition reminds us of the indomitable courage and spirit of the patriotic martyrs who sacrificed everything for their country.
I. Democratic Republic: Power Belongs to the Citizens
The Constitution of the Republic of Korea definitively states that its purpose is to “uphold the cause of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea born of the March First Independence Movement of 1919...” Hence, as this statement clearly stipulates, the present-day Republic of Korea represents the succession of the Provisional Government of Republic of Korea. From the moment that Korea became a colony of Japan in 1910, Korean people from all walks of life—men and women, rich and poor, urban and rural—began the persistent struggle for national independence. As a result, just nine years after the demise of the Korean Empire, the people were able to found the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, based on the belief that power is a sovereign right of every citizen.
II. The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea and Independence Movement
The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea was established on April 11, 1919 in the International Settlement in Shanghai, China. The National Representatives formed the Korean Provisional Congress, which declared the official name of the nation to be “The Republic of Korea,” and enacted the constitution and government system. Seeking international recognition as an independent country, the provisional government began to engage in various resistance activities, ranging from diplomatic discussions to armed resistance, including the creation of the Korean Independence Army. Thus, in this dark period of history, the Provisional Government served as a crucial beacon of light for the Korean people, who yearned for independence until 1945.
III. Independence and Establishment of the Country by the People
Immediately upon regaining their independence on August 15, 1945, the Korean people wished to create a new democratic order. Tragically, however, Korea had already been divided into north and south along the 38th parallel, so the people’s dream to create a unified Korean government went unfulfilled. Thus, on May 10, 1948, the south held the first democratic election in Korean history, upholding the democratic principle of universal, equal, and secret suffrage. Shortly thereafter, the National Assembly ratified the constitution on July 17, and the government of the Republic of Korea was officially established on August 15.