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Bang Jung-hwan, the Creator of Children's Day

Updated: 2011-05-05 00:00:00 (KST)
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[SOV]
[Interview : ] "We are Children!"

May 5 is Children's Day in Korea. It is a national holiday, and today marks the 89th Children's Day. It is the best day for children, as they can go to amusement parks with their families or get the presents they've wanted all year long. However, who created Children's Day



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[Interview : ] "God[Interview : ] "Bang Jung-hwan!"

[Interview : ] "Bang Jung-hwan!"

The creator of Children's Day is Bang Jung-hwan [방정환], a children's literature author and children's rights activist. Even though he passed away at the young age of 33, his work and legacy earned him the title of "the eternal friend of all children." These are the gifts he left for them.



The first gift is "eorini," [어린이] the Korean word for "children."



During the Japanese occupation period, there was a lack of awareness towards children's rights. He realized that children were the future of a nation.

[Interview : Shin Hyeon-deuk, Author of children's literature] "A long time ago, children were called "ahae." Moreover, the derogatory suffix "nom" was often added, giving "ahaenom." Today, the term for children is more respectful than that of years ago."

He studied children's art and child psychology, and the first thing he did was to establish the position of children in society. He established the word "eorini" [어린이] as a sign of respect for children, and published Korea's first child magazine, titled "Eorini."



[Interview : Shin Hyeon-deuk, Author of children's literature] "The "Eorini" magazine had children's stories, songs and poems as well as articles that could help in a child's development."

In 1923, Bang Jung-hwan founded Saekdong [색동], an organization for children. Saekdong was Korea's first organization geared towards promoting children's cultural movements.

Today, Saekdong is still pursuing its original mandate, established almost 90 years ago.







[Interview : Baek Dong-ik, Chairman
Saekdong] "When Bang Jung-hwan created Saekdong, the children's cultural movement and rights organization, the first thing he did was to focus on children's rights. Saekdong is keeping this principle alive to this day."

Through Saekdong, Bang Jung-hwan emphasized how there should be youth leadership competitions, art lessons for children, and other cultural activities aimed towards children.

Saekdong, under Bang Jung-hwan's leadership, established Children's Day on May 1, 1923.

Children's Day was stopped in 1939 by the occupying Japanese forces, but was re-established on May 5, 1946 as a fixed holiday.

Children's Day was intented to be a day in which children can laugh and be as happy as they want.



The text of his proclamation of Children's Day he presented on May 1, 1923 can be seen on a memorial stone at the Independence Hall of Korea.











The proclamation contained 8 requests by children to adults, and this began Children's Day. The monument stands where the proclamation was made.





[Interview : Baek Dong-ik, Chairman
Saekdong] "The proclamation of children's rights that Bang Jung-hwan made on May 1, 1923 predates the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, established in 1924."

The fourth gift is made up of books filled with dreams and hopes.



Bang Jung-hwan went around Korea to raise awareness of children's rights among other fellow adults. As a children's literature author, he translated and wrote children's stories. His storybooks are still read by children even today.

[Interview : Park Hye-jeong, Parent] "I am trying to read many books about famous Korean people to my child. Among those books, there is one about Bang Jung-hwan. I believe that telling children the good deeds he did and the legacy he left will be a positive influence for them."

He had an innate skill in narrating stories. He went around Korea and narrated to every child he met. Children today are swept into the world of narrated stories, just like how they were swept away in his time.



[Interview : Cha Hyeon-gyeong, Professional narrator] "A long time ago, children developed their imagination while listening to stories. Children today need an environment where they can share their emotions. I think narrating stories is the best way to create such an environment."

In 1983, a statue was built on Bang Jung-hwan's grave to celebrate his lifelong dedication to children.

[Interview : Baek Dong-ik, Chairman
Saekdong] "Children at that time gathered money to put up a statue of Bang Jung-hwan."

With the help of the children themselves, it was completed in 1971.

To be able to work for children's rights amidst oppression from colonial powers is truly shocking. Bang Jung-hwan's legacy and passion for children can be felt on every May 5, Korea's Children's Day.


Reporter : noakim@arirangtv.com

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