The Samil Independence Movement
After the national humiliation of annexation to Japan in 1910, Chondogyo, under the leadership of Revered Leader Euiam, spent nearly ten years in various forms of preparation for the Independence Movement. In order to reclaim Korea from Japan, the church continued to increase in power, while at the same time it prepared to carry out the movernment for independence.
It fostered a firm spiritual strenght and a resolute desire for independence by establishing in Seoul's Uidong the Bong-hwanggak monastery, selcting roughly 500 representatives from throughout the country. and introducing them to a seven-stage program of disciplined training. These same individuals were later to lead the many Independence Movement demonstrations in all regions of the coutry. Furthermore, in order to secretly raise money for the Independence Movement it set up, in name only, the Central Church Edifice Construction Fund. Church members throughout the country were told to perfom a forty-nine day special prayer for the restoration of independence, between the fifth day of the first month and the twenty-second day of the second month, in the sexagenary cycle year of Gimi(1918). Mineographing plans such as these for every parish in the country, it pepared in many different ways to carry out the Independence Movement in the name of the entire nation.
In the first month of the 60th year of podeok(1919) Revered Teacher Euiam held numerous meetings at his home with Gweon Dong-jin, O Se-chang, Choe Rin, and others, at the conclusion of which it was generally agreed to launch a nationwide movement for independence. In so doing, they set down three fixed rules: 1. It would be a poular nationwide movement. 2. It would be centrally planned and executed. 3. It would be carried out in a non-violent, passively resistant manner.
After this, in a meeting at Choe Rin's home in the beginning of the second month, with Song Jin-u, Hyeon Sang-yun, and Choe Nam-seon in attendance, the earlier agreed-upon plans for the Independence Movement were given final approval. Four days later, at Chungang School in Gyedong, these same four men, after much discussion and careful deliberration, agreed to the following: 1. Joining with Christians, twenty to thirty people's representatives, including influential men of the older Korean generation, would be selected for the purpose of making a formal declaration of national independence. 2. It was agreed that Choe Nam-seon would assume responsibility for the contents of the independence declaration and its accompanying statement.
Thereupon Choe Nam-seon and Song Jin-u sought out influential men of the dolder Korea generation, conferring with them on an individual basis, but immediate results were frustrating. To begin with, Choe Nam-seon, in order to negotiate with Christian representatives, asked Hyeon Sang-yun to convey the verbal message to Yi Seung-hun in Jeongju that he come up to the capital. But Hyeon Sang-yun delayed matters by entrusting this mission to Gim Do-t'ae.
Another problem was that Japanese government authorities were becoming extremely vigilant and strict regarding Korean students in Tokyo who were active in the national Independence Movement.
The following day Yi seung-hun traveled down to Seon-cheon, met with Yi Myeong-ryong and other Christian leaders, and received their approval as well. Then, for the second time, he returned to Seoul where he met with Bak Hui-do of the Young Men's Christian Association (Gidokyo-cheongyeonhoe) and participated in a conference are as follows: 1. A petition for national independence would be presented to the Japanese government. 2. Signatureds for the petition would be collected in Seoul and in all regional areas.
On the twenty-first day of the second month Choe Nam-seon met with Yi Seong-hun, and together they paid a visit to Choe Rin, with whom they shared opinions and ideas. Unhappy with the Christian Plan to petition Japan for independence, Choe Rin emphasized that Korea had to declare its independence. He further emphasized that the various religion and denominations acting alone and in their own way would not work, and that all had to unite and work in concert on this issue. At this, Yi Seung-heun deliberated further among colleagues present. Then, promising a response to Choe Rin's comments, and requesting that the originator of the Independence Moverment make provisions for funding, the meeting broke up. Choe Rin, received the approval of Revered Teacher Euiam for the dispensation of Movement funds, and on the twenty-second he handed over 5000 Weon to Yi Seung-hun.
Afterwards, Yi Seung-hun and Ham Tae-yeong, as representatives of the Christian side, met several times with Choe Rin, liaison to the Chondogyo side, resulting in agreement on seven concrete actions regarding the Independence Movement, including "The declaration of national independence will take place at Pagoda Park in Nagweondong on March the 1st at two o'clock in the afternoon." and "Copies of the people, and student groups and demonstrations while shouting 'long live an independent Korea.'"
Subsequently, thirty-three national representatives were dicided upon, and in the evening of the twenty-eight day of the second month they assembled at the home of Revered Leader Euiam, where, other than amending the site for the public reading of the Declarstion of Independence to the Taehwagwan, all previously determined plans for the following day(Samil) received final approval. This united group of national representatives included 15 Chondogyo, 9 Methodists, 7Presbyterians, and 2 Buddhists.
At last, on the first day of the third month, these national representatives read aloud the Declaration of Independence and loudly shouted "Long live an independent Korea!". Male and female student groups assembled in Pagoda Park at the same predetermined time, and together with members of the general public, they too read out loud the Declaration of Independence. Then, shouting at the top of their voices "long live an independent Korea!", they dispersed among the streets of the city to marched in demonstration.
On this same day demonstrations occurred in Pyeongyang, Euiju, Gilju, Weonju, Seosan, Jeonju, and elsewhere. These in turn led to an angry wave of humanity, of men and women, of young and old, through the length and breadth of the country, raising clenched fists in front of rifles and bayonets, shouting "Long live an independent korea", falling, yet standing up over and over again.
Many of these independence fighters, beginning with the national representatives, were imprisoned. Many other unknown noble patriots were massacred. The Chindogyo organization was hit particularly hard, beginning with the arrest and incarceration of Revered Teacher Euiam and most of its important leaders.
The Samil Independence Movement was an unprecedented event in human history. Although members of the Chondogyo religion formed its axis, the movement transcended religious and sectarian differences in the name of national independence, and there is no equivalent historic example of a people assembling in unified mind and sprit for such a purpose.
As the Independence Movement intesified and grew within Korea's borders, Koreans abroad, with those living in exile at thie center, expanded the scope of the movement, with many assembling in Shanghai to form the Provisional Government of the republic of Korea(Daehanminguk-imsijeongbu). The lofty ideals of the samil Movement also represent the basis for the founding principles of the Republic of Korea in later days.