Why Unsung Heroes?

Korea’s independence activists are hidden heroes in the history of mankind.

We are introducing the, until now overlooked, notable Korean heroes.

Do you perhaps know of the Korean independence activist who was published on the New York Time site’s front page?

On the main homepage of the American New York Times on March 30th, 2018 was an article dealing with a Korean independence activist.

It was the obituary for Yu Gwan-sun, a patriotic martyr who sacrificed her life 98 years ago. Yu Gwan-sun’s life was introduced in an article series titled ‘Overlooked No More’.

So why would an influential American daily newspaper like the New York Times write about a Korean independence activist who sacrificed her life almost 100 years ago?

The New York Times is introducing forgotten heroines, starting from ‘International Women’s Day’ (March 8th). They are telling the stories of these women who made incredible achievements but are not widely known amongst the broader public. Thus far, The New York Times introduced the likes of China’s female revolutionist QiuJin, the world’s first computer programmer Ada Lovelace, first woman to ever conquer Mount Everest Alison Hargreaves, British author of ‘Jane Eyre’ acclaim Charlotte Bronte, and Indian actress Madhubala, and more. The New York Times also introduces Yu Gwan-sun, an independence activist from 100 years ago, as an unknown Korean female hero.

The New York Time’s published header on Yu Gwan-sun reads “When a call for peaceful protests came in spring 1919, a schoolgirl became the face of a nation’s collective yearning for freedom.” Introducing the patriotic martyr Yu Gwan-sun as an image and symbol for the Korean independence movement.


It also introduced Yu Gwan-sun’s participation in the March 1st, 1919 independence movement during Japanese occupation, her harboring of the Korean Proclamation of Freedom to her hometown of ChoongnamCheonan, and actively spreading the 3.1 Movement. It praised her achievements by saying that even though the 3.1 Movement that Yu Gwan-sun participated in did not bring about immediate independence for Korea, it brought about unity for the Korean people and became the catalyst for resistance towards Japanese occupation.

In particular, it also introduced how Yu Gwan-sun was thrown into Seodaemun Prison and subject to torture, all the while showing the courage to demand for Korean independence with fellow inmates at the prison at such a young age. In addition, they included Yu Gwan-sun’s lasting truth before her death that “Japan will fall”.

Just like how The New York Time recognized Yu Gwan-sun after 100 years, she was a hero that was unknown to the world for 100 years. And in the history of the Korean independence movement, there are a lot of unknown heroes just like Yu Gwan-sun.

However, the international community still knows only that Japan colonized Korea and not of the history of the Korean independence activists who fought and resisted Japan’s colonization.


In regards to Korean history in world history textbooks, the information is written quite briefly, mainly focusing around Japan occupying Korea from 1910 to 1945 but Koreans’ suffering under Japan’s occupation and its resistance to its rule is usually omitted. Korea’s independence activists shed blood for Korea’s independence and peace in Asia but have largely been ignored or alienated from records on this period in time in world history textbooks. However, even though world history textbooks have Korean independence activists’ lives omitted doesn’t mean these activists who laid down their lives for Korean independence and peace in Asia’s historical value diminishes.


These are the Korea’s independence activists that are hidden in human history.
On August 29th, 1910, Imperial Japan took away Korea- a country with a more than 5,000 year old history. However, Japanese imperialism, which tried to break the Korean will for independence, could not stop the Korean people’s struggle for independence.

Especially in March of 1919 where out of a total population of 2 million, 200,000 people (one out of every 10) refused Japanese colonization and in order to declare their independence, came out onto the streets and participated in the 3.1 Movement.

The Korean will and desire for independence surprised the world, and the March 1 Independence Movement was recorded as one of the most brilliant and greatest events in the history of the world’s independence movements. The March 1 movement was a non-violent resistance against Japanese colonial rule and the first large-scale independence movement to take place in a colony since World War I.

After the March 1 Independence Movement in 1919, Korea established a provisional government and an army of rebels, and many independence activists risked their lives to fight against Japanese imperialism. The number of Korean prisoners in prisons nationwide increased from 2,424 in 1908 to 23,532 in 1943. The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, in particular, is the longest and most resistant interim government in the history of the world’s colonies, which fought for 27 years to recover its sovereignty from 1919 to 1945.

When Japan started the Pacific War in 1941, Korea fought with Japan in China, India and other countries as a member of the Allied Powers. These Korean and international efforts gathered together and Korea finally regained its independence on August 15, 1945. Korea did not achieve ‘ independence ‘ by manually relying on the Allied Powers, but by achieving ‘ independence ‘ through initiative with the international community.

Korea’s independence was the dream of Korean independence activists who tried to defy Japanese imperialism and restore their country, along with the proud hearts of the world’s people. And Korean independence activists who fought against Japanese imperialism are the proud main characters of the world’s history that created peace in Asia.

This site was created to introduce the lives and achievements of Korean independence activists, known as ‘Unsung Heroes’, who devoted their lives to Korean independence and peace in Asia.

Yu Gwan-sun, featured on the New York Times site, as well as 12 Korean independence activists and the 200,000 people that participated in theKorean Independence Movement100 years ago dreamed of an Asian union, like the European Union.And just like the heart of Korean independence activistsandKorean’s Dokdo island, are shedding new light onthe activities of Korean independence fighters in the 21st century.

Our dream is that through this site that the lives of Korean independence activists, the hidden heroes of human history, will be known to teenagers around the world. VANK, in particular, hopes that the site will be widely known to overseas teachers who teach world history, and that Korean independence activists’ lives will be used as educational content for elementary, middle and high schools abroad. So through this site, as Korean independence activists did 100 years ago for peace in Asia, we hope that the life of Korean independence activists will bring new dreams and hopes to young people around the world. That is the dream of a Korean who regards himself as a 21st century independence activist who established this site.

VANK, the Voluntary Network Agency of Korea, behind the site, is a group of 120,000 teenagers and young adults in Korea, 30,000 foreigners for a total of 150,000 who are volunteering to inform the world on Korean history and culture. VANK, in particular, is also committed to nurturing the talent of whom could contribute to peace in Asia and the world and to nurturing 21st century independence activists.