61-Year-Old Spirit Achieved from March 15th Democratic Rally
61-Year-Old Spirit Achieved from March 15th Democratic Rally
  • 김동복 기자
  • 승인 2021.06.14 12:44
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KT Reporter


 In 1960, large-scale demonstrations took place in Masan, due to the rigged election of Rhee Syng-man's dictatorship. The March 15th Rally (3·15 Rally) began and triggered the April 19 Revolution, which lead to the resignation of former President Rhee. This marked the first successful democratic movement in modern Korean history. As a result, in 2021, the March 15th Rally celebrated its 61st anniversary. A ceremony was held at the 3·15 National Cemetery to pay respects to the souls of 3·15 activists. More than 100 people participated in the ceremony, including Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, Governor Kim Kyung-soo, and Changwon Mayor Huh Sung-moo. The Prime Minister stated, "Gyeongnam is a sacred place for democracy. Today is a day that makes us think about how to take the history of democracy as a lesson. To do this, people basically need to remind themselves of the significance of 3·15 Rally." The Korean economy, which was in a state of decay because of the Korean War, was dependent on U.S. aid. It was difficult for ordinary people to survive. Masan, a city with a large port, was crowded with people who returned home after liberation and people who left rural areas looking for jobs. However, the factory jobs were significantly insufficient to accommodate the farmers. In addition, the monopoly centered on the privileged minority deepened the phenomenon of the gap between the rich and the poor. As the stability of the people's livelihood had been threatened, Masan had changed from a booming city into a lifeless one.

 Rhee Syng-man won his third term in 1956 and submitted a revision to the National Security Law to the National Assembly in 1958 to block public criticism of the long-term dictatorship. Despite strong protests from opposition parties and the media, the New National Security Act came into effect on January 15, 1959. A year before the presidential and vicepresidential elections, officials were sent to supervise opposition lawmakers. In the voting process, illegality was also a serious problem. When people arrived at the polling station, there were already examples of corruption on the electoral register. What was worse, when people voted differently from what the government wanted, they were viciously assaulted. Such coercive politics and ambition for extension of power were further embodied and organized and led to the March 15 rigged election. As a result, citizens and students protesting against the rigged election were gathered and staged a massive protest in Masan. However, the scene of the crackdown was disastrous. Many demonstrators were killed or wounded due to indiscriminate shootings. Also, some of them were arrested by police. As time went on, the atmosphere of the demonstration was weakening due to the continuous relentlessness of the police. Incidentally, a young man's body, which had been missing since the first March 15 incident, floated to the central pier of Masan on April 11. The appearance of a body was so shocking. A tear gas grenade had penetrated his eyes. The young man was a high school student in Masan, Kim Joo-yeol. The citizens and students of Masan were angry. As a result, thousands of enraged citizens and students of Masan gathered in front of the Masan Hospital, where the body was located. Masan rose to its feet as citizens joined the group, led by students from eight high schools, including Masan High School. The second round of protests served as an opportunity to spread throughout the country. Since then, rumors of protests have spread nationwide, and all students across the country have risen in unison to protest, and this is the day of the April 19 Revolution, which changed the history of South Korea. A week later, former President Rhee Syngman resigned from his presidency. As such, Korean students showed a righteous spirit and youthful spirit in the face of injustice and fire.

 In light of Korean political, economic, and social image under the big framework of modern history, the March 15th Democratic Rally was an inevitable response to the situation of desperation and democracy. It is also regrettable that even though Masan was the focal point of the demonstrations of March 15, it has now been renamed ‘Changwon' due to the integration of Masan, Changwon, and Jinhae cities. The March 15th Democratic Rally was not the end of the dark era, but the shared perception of creating a new bright and hopeful history and the starting point for democratization. The ultimate goal comes down to the restoration of human dignity and the emphasis on the transition of justice, recognizing a free society, human principles, and purity to mature democratic societies. Hopefully, finding out the truth by looking at the mistakes of the past, and establishing the level of mindfulness for people living in the present era is a priority. In conclusion, the March 15 Rally was the first successful democratic movement in Korean history. This movement not only contributed to the restoration of national freedom and sovereignty, but also inspired the April 19 Revolution. Every March, the ceremonies of the March 15 Rally are held; just for that day, we need to honor those who fought for our freedom.


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