‘The Spirit of Yu Gwan-sun is in the Spotlight Again’

Yu Hye-kyung, a grand-niece of patriot Yu Gwan-sun, is holding a photo of Yu In-Seok(on the right side), who is her grandfather and younger brother of Yu Gwan-sun, and her uncle Yu Je-chong(on the left side), at the opening ceremony for a memorial to Yu Gwan-sun. (Photo via The Korea Times)

There is a girl who showed an extraordinary love for her country. The 18-year-old patriot Yu Gwan-sun, who said while she was dying that her only sorrow was that she had only one life to dedicate to her country, is considered a symbol of the March 1st Independence Movement. In commemoration of the movement’s 100th anniversary, in the U.S., as well as in Korea, new attention is being paid to Yu Gwan-sun, who aspired to Korea’s independence. Last month, the New York State Assembly adopted a resolution to designate March 1, 2019, as a day to commemorate the achievements of Yu Gwan-sun. This month, the New Jersey General Assembly introduced a resolution to designate March 1 as a day to celebrate Yu Gwan-sun. The plan is to share the New Jersey legislature’s proclamation with a special figure: Yu Hye-kyung, a grand-niece of Yu Gwan-sun.

In an exclusive interview with The Korea Times, Yu, who has lived in Flushing, New York, since 2006, said: “I am so happy that the New York State Assembly and New Jersey General Assembly have adopted a resolution to honor the 1919 Korean Independence Movement from Japanese occupation and the spirit of patriot Yu Gwan-sun.” It is the first time that Yu revealed herself as a descendant of Yu Gwan-sun, and held a press interview.

Yu Hye-kyung is a grand-niece of patriot Yu Gwan-sun, and she is a granddaughter of Yu In-seok who was a brother of Yu Gwan-sun. Among the brothers of Yu Gwan-sun are her older brother Yu Woo-suk, who spearheaded the March 1st Independence Movement, and her younger brothers Yu In-seok and Yu Gwan-seok.

“I was born in Byeongcheon-myeon, South Chungcheong province, and lived with my grandfather until I was 7 years old,” Yu said. “About the March 1st Independence Movement, my grandfather said that not only his sister [Yu Gwan-sun], but also his parents and older brother, all aspired to the independence of my country, and they were very busy preparing for demonstrations,” Yu added.

She said: “At the time of a demonstration on April 1, 1919, the parents of patriot Yu were killed by the Japanese police and her brother was arrested. Grandfather said that his elder sister, Yu Gwan-sun, escaped immediately after the demonstration, but was arrested by the Japanese police when she stopped by her house because she was worried about her two younger brothers who had been left alone.”

“My grandfather’s entire family devoted themselves to Korea’s independence movement against Japanese colonial rule, but his parents died and his elder brother and sister [Yu Gwan-sun] were imprisoned, making the life of my grandfather, who was a young teenager at the time, much harder,” she said. “My grandfather went through tough times, wandering around Yangyang and Wonsan, and then settled back in his hometown. Under former President Park Chung-hee, a caretaker’s place was built next to the birthplace of patriot Yu Gwan-sun. After that, my grandfather lived there for the rest of his life,” she added.

After graduating from college, Yu and her husband, Rev. Kim Taek-yong, did pastoral work in Ganghwa, Gyeonggi province, and Sangdo-dong, Seoul, until they came to New York City in 2006.

Yu said: “[After college] I barely did outside activities because I needed to help my husband do pastoral work. After arriving in Seoul, I helped my aunt (Kim Jeong-ae, the honorary chairman of the 3.1 Women’s Association) and served as a member of the 3.1 Women’s Association.” Yu added: “The 3.1 Women’s Association is working to find descendants of Korean independence activists and help them. It has a headquarters in Korea and a branch in Los Angeles, but my aunt wants to establish a branch in New York, so I’m preparing for it.”

Yu said: “My grandfather often said that it was much harder to be mistreated and bullied by Koreans than by the Japanese during the Japanese colonial period.” She added: “I hope that Korean immigrants will not antagonize and ignore each other. I hope that future generations will not forget the spirit of their ancestors who devoted themselves to the independence of their motherland 100 years ago. I want to try to help Koreans to support each other.”

On behalf of the descendants of Yu Gwan-sun, Yu Hye-kyung is scheduled to attend the March 1st Independence Movement Day ceremony at the Palisades Park High School auditorium in New Jersey on March 1 and receive the proclamation dedicated to Yu Gwan-sun by the New Jersey General Assembly.

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