I, Jo So-ang, pledge to all of you.
We will make our country an independent nation.
We will make our fellow citizens free.
We will succeed in achieving our democratic independence.
We will ensure that every child graduates from university.
We will grant every adult the political right to vote.
We will provide every person with a bottle of milk and a house to live in.
We will liberate our homeland.
If that cannot be achieved, please set fire to my body and kill me.
Long live Korean independence! Long live the (Korean) Provisional Government!
– from the commemorative speech at the 27th March 1st ceremony –
Jo So-ang (born Jo Yong-eun) was born on April 9, 1887, in the area which is now Nungsan-ri, Wollong-myeon, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do, Korea, as the second son amongst six brothers and one sister.
As a child, he learned Chinese classics from his grandfather, Cho Seong-ryong, and became interested in foreign cultures and ideas after listening to his eldest brother, Cho Yong-ha, explaining the purpose and activities of the Independence Association.
In 1902, at the age of 16, he became the youngest student to enroll in Sungkyunkwan, the highest educational institution in Korea at the time. While in school, together with Shin Chae-ho, he wrote a statement denouncing the transfer of development rights for the desert over to Japan and opposing the pro-Japanese officials’ conspiracy.
After graduating from Sungkyunkwan in 1904, he was selected as a Japanese imperial envoy student (a student who had all related costs paid for by the country under the pretext of a new education system during the Daehanjaeguk era) and enrolled in Tokyo Metropolitan First Middle School.
In November 1905, while still a student, he participated in a protest rally against the forced Eulsa Treaty signed by Japan to strip Korea of its diplomatic rights. The next month, he also rebutted the principal of the school when he spoke about the inevitability of Japan’s invasion of Korea and insulted Korean students.
In September 1906, he organized the Daehan Gongsuhoe, a group of Korean students studying in Japan, and worked as the chief editor of the magazine “Gongsuhakbo”. In 1908, he enrolled in the Law Department of Meiji University, one of Japan’s prestigious private universities. The following year, he founded the Daehan Heungseonhoe, which integrated various Korean student groups in Tokyo, and worked as the chief editor of the magazine “Daehan Heungseonhoebo”.
In July 1917, he put together the Declaration of the Independence Struggle, which was announced in the name of 14 independence activists. It proclaimed the invalidity of the annexation treaty, the emperor’s relinquishment of sovereignty, and the principle of popular sovereignt. This has historical significance in that it advocated for the establishment of a provisional government based on the inheritance of the legal tradition of Daehanjaeguk and the principle of popular sovereignty.
In February 1919, he put forward the Korean Declaration of Independence in the area of Kilin, Manchuria (now Jilin Province, China), and announced it in the name of 39 independence activists, including Kim Kyu-sik, Ahn Chang-ho, and Shin Gyusik.
In April of the same year, he participated in the establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea and developed activities to establish the identity of the provisional government. He also took on the role of writing the draft of the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of Korea.
In May 1919, he crossed over to Europe to support Kim Kyu-sik, who attended the Paris Peace Conference, and in the 1920s, he continued to meet with government officials from various countries to expose Japanese atrocities and appeal for foreign support to Korean independence.
In 1930, Yi Dong-nyeong, Lee Si-young, Ahn Chang-ho, and Kim Gu founded the Korean Independence Party, a nationalist party that established principles and policies based on the Three Principles of the People.
Equality among individuals means political, economic, and educational equality, equality among nations means national self-determination, and equality among countries is achieved when all countries refrain from interfering with or invading each other.
In November 1941, he – together with Kim Gu, Lee Si-young and others – presented the founding principles and published the “Declaration of the Founding of the Republic of Korea,” which laid the foundation for the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea as they were approaching the brink of national independence.
Afterwards, he continued his political activities as Vice Chairman of the Korean Independence Party, President of the People’s Council, Chairman of the Socialist Party, and was elected in the second general election. However, after the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, he was forcibly taken to North Korea. In July 1956, he organized the Committee for the Promotion of Peaceful Unification in North Korea and worked for the reunification of the country as a high-ranking member.
In September 1958, he was imprisoned on charges of espionage by the North Korean government, and to protest against this, he continued a hunger strike, eventually passing away on September 10, 1958, at the age of 71.
Jo So-ang laid the foundation for the Republic of Korea by imagining a just society where everyone enjoys equal opportunities and pursuing peace for both the nation and the world!
Now, as 21st-century Jo So-ang, please complete the Republic of Korea that Jo So-ang dreamed of as a politician!