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대한민국 민주화운동의 횃불 2·28 민주운동

The 2·28 Movement for Democracy

What is the The February 28 Democratic Movement ("2·28")?

"2·28" was the first of its kind in Korea.
It was led mainly by high school students in Daegu during the unjust and
unlawful Rhee Seung-Man dictatorship.

The Historical Background of "2·28"

In 1960 Korea was miserable. After one and a half decades of dictatorial rule, Rhee Seung-Man pushed the people's lives to the breaking point. His Liberal Party (Jayu-dang), which strengthened its dictatorship for long-term rule through undemocratic constitutional amendments such as 1952's 1st Constitutional Amendment and 1954's 2nd Amendment, used intrigue, foul play, and worse in the run up to the 4th presidential and 5th vice presidential elections scheduled for March 15, 1960.

Cho Byung-Ok, the only opposition presidential candidate to confront Rhee, died suddenly on February 15 just a month before the election. Rhee's victory became a given. Considering Rhee was then 86 years old, the biggest task of the Liberal Party had been to elect Lee Ki-Boong as vice president, who would become the president’s heir apparent. But the Liberal party's Lee Ki-Boong was not confident of winning the election because Jang Myeon was a strong opposition candidate and the incumbent vice president. Daegu had a strong reputation as an opposition city as it had played a crucial role in the election of the vice president during the 1956 election. Therefore, Jang Myeon's election campaign on the Suseong River in Daegu, scheduled for February 28, 1960 caught nationwide public attention.

The Beginning of "2·28"
– A Flame for Democracy!

Against this backdrop, the eight public high schools in Daegu (Kyungpook High School, Kyungpook National University High School, Kyungpook Girls' High School, Daegu Girls' High School, Daegu High School, Daegu Agricultural High School (now renamed Daegu Agricultural Meister High School), Daegu Technical High School, and Daegu Commerical High School (now renamed Daegu Sangwon-High School)) were ordered by authorities to make students attend on Sunday, February 28th. School attendance was to prohibit students’ campaigning with Dr. Jang Myeon's event. The Rhee administration provided several grounds for the school openings on Sunday, including: administering unexpected early mid-term exams (then, the new term began in April, not in March, which means mid-term exams were normally taken in early March), watching movies, and hunting rabbits.

Students held an emergency meeting at each school immediately after the announcements were issued, pointing out the unfairness of the attendance order and demanding its withdrawal. On the afternoon of February 27, students from Kyungpook High School, Daegu High School, and Kyungpook National University High school gathered together at the home of Lee Dae-woo, vice president of the student committee of Kyungpook High School. They organized an emergency communication network, and drafted a statement of resolutions in preparation for protest against the unfair school attendance order on Sunday.

On February 28, 12:55 p.m., Lee Dae-woo ran up to the stage at Kyungpook High School’s assembly hall and read the resolution prepared the day before. "A million students, if you have blood, stand up for our sacred rights. The red blood of the students is flowing at this moment, and it is our spirit to fight to the death to destroy the injustice that goes against justice."

Reading the resolution set fire to the hearts of the exited students. The students rose up all at once denouncing the injustice of the Liberal Party administration, and rallied out of the school despite teachers' reluctance. Finally, the first anti-dictatorship and democracy movement since the establishment of the Republic of Korea ignited.

The Development of "2·28"
-The flame of democracy burned into a wildfire

Around 1:00 p.m. on February 28th, some 800 high school students from Kyungpook High School headed to the North Gyeongsang Provincial Government Building via Banwoldang in the central part of Daegu, and students from Daegu High School who had difficulties in breaking through the main gate of their school finally started to march on to the streets. Daegu soon was covered with cries of students who condemned injustice and called for democracy. Demonstrators went to the Liberty Party Office Building of the North Gyeongsang Province via the Maeil Newspaper Building in central Daegu, to denounce the government's injustice.

Citizens hid students who had been beaten by the police and applauded the protesters. Students from Kyungpook National University High School and Daegu Commercial High School, which were not able to join the protest as easily, started hunger strikes on campus or climbed the school walls to join the demonstrators. Others continued to join the protest rallies in Daegu and other cities. About 220 students were arrested by police at the demonstration site and students were taken to the police, prompting teachers at each school to take serious responsibility.

The Daegu media, which struggled with the life-threatening dictatorship of Rhee, took heart from the courage of young high school students and broadcast coverage of "2·28". This thereby motivated student protests in Masan, Daejeon, Busan and Seoul. Thus, the February 28 roar led to the March 15 Masan Justice Protests ("3·15 Masan Protests") and the April 19 Revolution ("4·19 Revolution"), and marked a milestone in the history of democracy In Korea.

A historical meaning of "2·28"
- The beginning of Democratic Movement of the Republic of Korea

"2·28" was not just about protesting against unusual forced school attendance on Sunday. It came from two reasons. First, students understood citizens were incredibly desperate due to the Liberal Party’s corruption and incompetence. Second, students had seen through the Rhee government’s conspiracy to prevent them joining the opposition vice presidential candidate’s campaign event, which left them outraged.

On the most dark and fearful night, someone's cry for dawn is small but the loudest. The February 28 roar of democracy, the first of its kind, was the root of a democratic movement that spread nationwide with the support of citizens as well as students.

"2·28" was designated as National Memorial Day in 2018. The spirit of "2·28" shall be evoked as a spiritual asset inspiring an advanced democratic society that pursues values of integration and mutual co-existence – timely demands for Korean society today.
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