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Liberation of Korea: Independence Movement and International Relations

1. Liberation of Korea : Independence Movement and International Relations

Educational materials of Modern Korean History # 1
(National Museum of Korean Contemporary History)

Liberation of Korea : Independence Movement and International Relations

In early 20th century Korea became a colony of Japan amid the connivance of world powers like the United States, Great Britain, France and Russia.

Amid the trend of self-determination, Koreans faced Japan’s iron-fisted tyranny with the March First Movement in 1919, and the Provisional Government was established, along with armed resistance, diplomatic efforts, the Capacity-enhancing Movement and other forms of independence activities.

August 29, 1910
Japan annexes Korea
The Korean Empire loses its national sovereignty

March First Movement (1919)
A non-violent demonstration against Japanese oppression of Korea that took place on March 1, 1919 and proclaimed independence from Japan

Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea established in Shanghai, China
(September 1919)

Japan had the support of the Western powers until the 1920s, and lost it when Japan began its invasion of Asia, starting with Manchuria and reaching mainland China and Southeast Asia.

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor pitted it against the United States in open warfare.

Attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941)
An attack on Pearl Harbor, the base of the US Pacific Fleet by the Japanese Navy

Korea’s independence movement regained steam through military activities and international diplomatic efforts.

Declaration of war against Japan by the Provisional Government (December 9, 1941)

Alliances formed with the Office of Strategic Services, special forces for infiltrating Korea are formed

United Korean Committee / (April 1941)
A unified independence group based in Hawaii

The Allies agreed to grant Korea independence, but after a period of trusteeship.

Cairo Conference (November 22~27, 1943)
A summit meeting of the United States, Great Britain and China in Cairo, Egypt to discuss how to fight Japan and how to proceed after the war

“The aforesaid three great powers, mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.”
- from the Cairo Declaration

The United States pushed its way towards Japan...

...and after dropping two atomic bombs on Japan, Japan surrendered.

On August 15, 1945, Korea got the liberation it had been seeking for the past 36 years.

August 15, 1945

However, unease once again settled on the Korean Peninsula. The United States established the 38th parallel in order to stop the Soviet Union from taking over the entire peninsula.

August 24, 1945
Soviet forces are stationed in North Korea (Pyongyang)

The Soviet Union fortified its part of the peninsula, restricting civilian movement and shaping the 38th parallel as a national border.

Tension between the United States and the Soviet Union began to escalate over occupied territory issues, and the Soviet Union began to Communize North Korea via secret orders.

London Conference of Foreign Ministers
September 12-October 2, 1945

Establish a bourgeois government based on anti-Japanese factions in North Korea

The Provisional People’s Committee for North Korea, founded in February 1946, took charge of land and social reform, essentially becoming a government.

North Korean Provisional People’s Committee established
February 8, 1946

North Korean land reform / implemented in March 1946
All privately owned land confiscated with no compensation and divided among farmers for free
Landowners are expelled from their homes

North Korea quickly became a Socialist nation, while South Korea was still mired with disagreements.
Before people were able to fully enjoy liberation, Korea once again fell into a fog of uncertainty.

North Korea goes on its own path after liberation

How will this crisis be overcome? Korea once again needs courage and wisdom.

What is the way to establish an unified government?