During the harsh Japanese colonial era, the desire for independence continued to rise steadily, which culminated in a surge of independence movements across Korea. It was not only just an armed struggle, but also a loud proclamation to the world of the indignation suffered by the Korean people.
Korean independence fighter, Hwang Ki-whan, served in the Western European front as an American soldier in World War I to participate in the American war effort, at a time when the March 1st Movement and the establishment of the Korean Provisional Government were taking shape. After the war ended, he remained in Paris, and continued his diplomatic activities as the secretary-general of the Korean delegation of the Provisional Government, through the suggestion of Kim Kyu-sik, a leader of the independence movement.
He also submitted an independence petition to the Paris Peace Conference, and through interviews with various media, he played a major role in publicizing the legitimacy of the Korean independence and the illegitimacy of Japan’s actions around the world. Although he failed to garner support for Korea’s independence, he continued his independence activism by publishing a booklet titled “The Independence and Peace of Korea(L’Indépendance Ee La Corée Et La Paix)” and a monthly magazine called “La Coree Libre” in France.
Later in his life, he was appointed as a member of the Provisional Government’s London Committee and tried to form a Korean independence sponsor group. He also tried to bring up the issue of Korean independence to British politicians. Subsequently, the “Great British Empire Korean Friendship Association ” was formed, consisting of 62 British notables, including 17 British lawmakers.
Furthermore, on June 12, 1921, Hwang Ki-hwan actively sent out diplomatic response to Japan, distributing a print called “The Appeal of the Korean People for Liberation from Japan” directly not only to prime ministers who attended the Imperial conference in the United Kingdom but even to the Japanese Ambassador Konsuke Hayashi who attended as well.
He devoted his life to European diplomacy and continued his diplomatic activities between New York and London, and died of heart disease in 1923.
“What Koreans are asking for is not Japan’s autonomy or reform, but the withdrawal of Japanese administration from Korea and the transfer of authority to the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea.”
” Koreans are spilling blood to gain absolute independence of Koreans for Koreans by Koreans, not accept any reforms the Japanese government is trying to bring into Korea, not give up the independence movement, and the only way for Korea and Japan to reconcile is for Korea to become independent and establish a good neighborhood relationship between the two countries.”
Hwang Ki-hwan, was a diplomat who did not lose his identity as a Korean in spite of being embroiled in a faraway and foreign land and worked hard on promoting international diplomacy. After 100 years of his death, he returned to his homeland and going to have eternal sleep at the Daejeon National Cemetery. Now, we should all aspire to be the new Hwang Ki-hwan of the 21st century and accomplish the Republic of Korea that he dreamed of!