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Scholar discovers original copies of 1919 Swiss resolution calling for Korean independence

A South Korean scholar said Wednesday he has discovered the original copies of a resolution adopted at the 1919 International Socialist Conference in the Swiss town of Lucerne that show the Korean provisional government's diplomatic efforts to call for Korean independence from Japan.

Although the resolution itself has been known to Korean scholars due to reports in Korean newspapers, including the provisional government's newspaper, The Independence Newspaper, the location of the original copies of the resolution in three languages -- English, French and German -- had been previously unknown.

The Korean peninsula was under Japan's colonial rule from 1910-45.


Lee Jang-kyu, who is taking a doctoral course on the Korean independence movement at Paris Diderot University, discovered them from the archives at the Amsterdam-based International Institute of Social History.

Titled "Resolution in Behalf of the Independence of the People of Korea," the resolution was adopted on August 9, 1919, when the International Socialist Conference, a gathering of socialist parties and bodies worldwide, ended its nine-day session in the Swiss city.

According to the resolution, the conference "protests against the brutal violation of the rights of the Korean people and the foreign oppression by the Japanese government, in spite of the unquestioned right of self-determination of the Korean people."

"The Conference declares itself in complete accord with the claims of Korea, which desires to be freed definitely from all foreign yoke and to be recognized as a free and independent state," it said.

The conference also invited the League of Nations to accept Korea as a member.

The resolution illustrates the strenuous efforts of the provisional government in China to improve the cause of Korean independence on the European stage around the 1919 Paris Peace Conference held to discuss the postwar order following World War I.

The French branch of the Korean provisional government, led by Kim Kyu-sik, sent Cho So-ang and Lee Kwan-yong as representatives to the conference as part of efforts to plead for Korean independence and succeeded in securing the resolution's adoption.

At the time, Korean newspapers carried reports that Korean independence was approved on August 9 at the conference in which representatives from 25 countries took part.

During the conference, Cho and Lee submitted a request for the approval of Korean independence, under the name of the Korea Socialist Party.

Lee Jang-kyu, who rediscovered the resolution, said, "The documents show Korea's diplomatic endeavor in Europe to achieve independence from Japan and lay bare the hard work of the French branch and Kim Kyu-sik."

According to Chang Seok-heung, a history professor at Seoul's Kookmin University, the discovery carries significant meaning in researching the history of the Korean independence movement. "We should make further efforts overseas to unearth materials related to the history of the Korean independence movement," Chang said.

Established in 1935, the Dutch institute is the largest archives of labor and social history in the world and has one million volumes and 2,300 archival collections. (Yonhap)