written by Devon Furbush
What do you get when you have a crumbled economy and a president surrounded by corruption and political repression? That is where the 2.28 Daegu Democratic Movement comes into play. What makes this movement more gripping is the fact that it was started by high school students. Even at such a young age, they knew a misguided education system when they saw one. Therefore a plan was constructed to spark the revolutionary flame against educational suppression while disrupting the Democratic election lecture on the same day…. all during Sunday school. The 2.28 Movement for Democracy made such a large-scale shift in Korean history that it is now an official national holiday as of 2018. Leading up to 1960, the country had gone through its separation from Imperial Japan in 1945, the Korean War in 1950, President Rhee Syngman's Martial Law in 1952, the Korean War Armistice in 1953, and the Constitutional Amendment of 1954. Stemming from all of these events, relationships between the government and the citizens were crippling. This resulted in a crumpled economy, a severe shortage of goods, and destroyed facilities. You can imagine the detrimental effects these had on South Korea’s culture, society, and overall infrastructure. Even North Korea was doing better off under the Kim regime up until the '70s. South Korea needed more than a change. The nation needed its people to come together in order to recover what had been trampled on for too long. Enough was enough.
On the morning of February 28th, 1960, hundreds of students from Kyeongbuk HS, Kyeongbuk National University HS, Kyeongbuk Girls' HS, Daegu HS, Daegu Technical HS, Daegu Agricultural HS, Daegu Commercial HS, and Daegu Girls' HS were more than fed up with the way their country was being handled. They didn’t want to see Rhee Syngman back in the office and they surely did not want to sit back and just watch the maladministration of the Liberal Party. The hoard of students spread all over the city from Suseong riverside (the location of the Democratic party's lecture), the Daegu Daily Newspaper office, Sinnam Elementary School, Shindo Theatre, and all the way to the provincial government building to begin their anti-government rally. When the word got out, more and more students joined in. At this point, the police had no choice but to use excessive force. Even the governor of Daegu at the time cried out to the students that "They’re all Communists!!”. There were some adult citizens trying to protect the students from getting beaten by the police. Others just safely cheered on in their favor. In the end, more than 1,000 students participated in the uprising and more than 100 were arrested. This only caught the attention of the press and news of the movement spread across the country, sparking revolutions in Gwangju, Seoul, Busan, and Masan. Even overseas in France and Turkey similar movements occurred. One incident in Masan caused a lot of turmoil and controversy when a body was discovered at a harbor on April 11th, 1960. As a participant in the March 15th riot, this high school student named Kim Ju-yu mysteriously disappeared. The cause of death was reported that a tear-gas grenade had split his skull in half. Protesters fiercely stormed the hospital he was in to cook up media attention because Rhee Syngman’s party made attempts to cover up the happening.
You can say that South Korea's fight to oppose authoritarianism started in Daegu. Several monuments can be seen all over the city as a reminder of the raging spirit of a democratic nation.
Address: 대구 중구 2·28길 9 (English address is on the fritz)