Bu-Ma Democratic Protests Commemoration Day in South Korea Date in the current year: October 16, 2024

Bu-Ma Democratic Protests Commemoration Day in South Korea Bu-Ma Democratic Protests Commemoration Day is observed in South Korea every year on October 16. It commemorates the 1979 Busan-Masan Uprising, abbreviated as Bu-Ma Uprising, that was suppressed by Park Chung Hee’s dictatorial regime.

Park Chung Hee was the third President of the Republic of Korea who seized power in the May 16 military coup in 1961 and ruled the country for 18 years until his death. Although Park’s regime laid the foundation for South Korea’s rapid industrialization, known as the Miracle on the Han River, it has left a controversial legacy due to the suppression of democracy and civil liberties.

After two years of military government, Park was elected President of South Korea in 1963 and announced a return to civilian government, but in practice the Third Republic of South Korea was a dictatorship. In 1972, Park launched a self-coup known as the October Restoration. He dissolved the National Assembly, declared martial law, adopted a new constitution known as the Yushin Constitution, and founded the Fourth Republic of Korea.

The Yushin Constitution significantly expanded the powers of the president and allowed him to run for an unlimited number of terms, codifying Park’s de facto dictatorial powers. The centralized and authoritarian Yushin Regime allowed Park to legally and openly suppress his opposition and violate civil liberties, but this only exacerbated resistance.

In August 1979, president of the main opposition party Kim Young-sam allowed female workers of the YH Trading Company to use the party’s headquarters for a sit-in demonstration, which was later brutally raided the police. Due to the incident, Kim was expelled from the National Assembly by the ruling party on October 4, and all other members of his party resigned.

In the wake of Kim’s expulsion, students from Busan National University participated in demonstrations calling to end Park’s dictatorship. The protests began on October 16, 1979; the next day, students were joined by other citizens of Busan. On October 18, the demonstrations spread to the city of Masan (now part of Changwon). Initially peaceful, they quickly escalated into clashes with the police and attacks on police stations and administrative buildings.

Two days after the protests began, Park declared martial law in Busan. Over 1,000 people were arrested, and 66 of them faced a court martial. On October 20, martial law was declared in Masan, and 59 more people were brought to military court.

The Bu-Ma Protests were suppressed, but they were the beginning of the end for the Yushin Regime: on October 26, Park was assassinated by Kim Jae-gyu, the head of his intelligence service and one of Park’s closest friends. His assassination led to a period of democratization known as the Seoul Spring and the establishment of the Fifth Republic of Korea in 1981.

In 2019, the South Korean government designated October 16 as a national memorial day to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the riots. It is marked by remembrance ceremonies, exhibitions, and other activities held across the country to honor the fight of those who struggled for democracy.

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Bu-Ma Democratic Protests Commemoration Day, observances in South Korea, memorial days, Bu-Ma Uprising