South Korea celebrates Liberation Day every 15 August to commemorate the victory of the Allies over Japan at the end of World War II in 1945. This victory was especially significant to Korea since it was one of the earliest lands to be invaded and occupied by the Empire of Japan.
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Liberation Day is the only holiday that both South Korea and North Korea have in common. Even here, however, there is a difference. South Korea calls the holiday “Gwangbokjeol”, meaning “day the light returned”. North Korea calls it “Chogukhaebangui”, meaning “day of the liberation of the fatherland”.
Two independent nations were set up on the Korean Peninsula on 15 August, 1948, three years after the defeat of Japan. The USSR had defeated the Japanese in North Korea, while the US had liberated South Korea. In 1949, Liberation Day was made a public holiday in South Korea by its first president, Syngman Rhee.
There is a special memorial service held each year for Liberation Day that is attended by South Korea’s sitting president. The Gwangbokjeol Song, which celebrates the liberation and its significance, is always sung at this ceremony. The government also traditionally issues pardons on this day, and there are many cultural and patriotic events put on throughout South Korea.