The Gwangju Student Independence Movement, which spread throughout the whole country from Gwangju on November 3rd, 1929, is the national landmark movement to speak out against Japanese imperialism. This movement was not just an accidental occurrence because of conflict between Korean students and Japanese students who were commuting from Gwangju to Naju. This was a landmark event which expressed the ability of student movements to free the country from the colonial rule.
The Gwangju Student Independence Movement began with anti-Japan demonstrations in Gwangju, but it developed into demonstrations and students strikes throughout the whole country. From 194 schools, approximately 54,000 students (more than half the number of students in Korea at that time) sacrificed themselves for the independence of their country and people. The Gwangju Student Independence Movement spread all over the country and into foreign countries as well. The demonstations and support which encouraged the Gwangju Student Independence Movement came from Gando and Jilin in Manchuria, Shanghai, and Beijing in China and even Japan.
In addition, despite strong pressure from the Japanese imperialists, the second Students Independence Movement occured when Gwangju high school students held a protest in May, 1943. Students with a sense of patriotism and justice developed the Gwangju Student Independence Movement for the independence of their country and people from Japanese colonial rule.
In 1953, the government designated the third of November, on which day the Gwangju Student Independence Movement took place, as a national memorial day for the students. June 10th of the following year (1954), a 10.9 meter high student tower, symbolizing the Gwangju Student Independence Movement, was built on the grounds of Gwangju Seo Middle School and Gwangju Jeil High School. Upon it is engraved the words, “We are hot-blooded students. Only the right way is our life.” The Students’ Day was abolished in 1973, however, under the Despotic Reform Government, in an attempt to stop students’ uprising for democracy and against dictatorship. The Students’ Day was later revived in 1984 as a regional event hosted by the Ministry of Education when the Despotic Reform Government ended in 1984.
In 1967, the Gwangju Student Independence Movement Memorial Hall was opened.