September 4 to 29, 2019
10th Prison Building of Seodaemun Prison History Hall
Time required to view the exhibition:
Approximately 20 minutes
A special exhibition commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Deungdaesa Incident, entitled Changing History, Unchanging Conscience, was held at the 10th prison building of the Seodaemun Prison History Hall located in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, from September 4 to 29, 2019. The 51,175 visitors, including 5,700 international tourists, were captivated by the exhibition dedicated to the issue of conscientious objection to military service.
The opening ceremony on September 3, held one day before the public opening of the exhibition, was attended by many human rights lawyers, civil rights activists, and guests from various sectors of South Korean society. They included Seung Seon-ho, head of the Seodaemungu City Management Corporation; Park Gyeong-mok, head of the Seodaemun Prison History Hall; Professor Han Hong-gu of SungKongHoe University; and Professor Lee Seok-wu of Inha University as well as descendants of the Deungdaesa members involved in the incident. Attendees were able to see and discuss the changes in attitude toward conscientious objection to military service throughout Korea’s history and talk about the experiences of Deungdaesa members as shared by their descendants.
This special exhibition is the first to make public Deungdaesa Incident records comprising some 6,000 pages previously stored at the National Institute of Korean History. The records include the experience of Jang Sun-ok, who was tortured for refusing to engage in royal shrine worship (the practice of bowing down toward
the royal palace where the Japanese emperor lived was performed by subjects of the Japanese Empire and its colonies). Also included is the story of the Ok family, members of which were imprisoned for a total of 28 years over four generations.
One visitor to the exhibition stated: “I have come to learn that genuine religious conviction is something that never changes, even with the flow of time and shifting circumstance. I was deeply moved by the determination of people who wanted to uphold their conscience even in the face of death.”
Held and supported by the Public Information Desk, South Korea Branch Office of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Kyeong Hyang, September 3, 2019, “First Exhibition of the Beginning of Conscientious Objection in Korea—the Deungdaesa Incident—Open to the Public”
Refusal to worship the Japanese Emperor and serve the military At least 66 tortured and punished
Special exhibition commemorating the 80th anniversary
Chosun Ilbo, September 2, 2019, “Looking Back 80 Years, the First Conscientious Objection—By Jehovah’s Witnesses”
An exhibition will be held to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the “Deungdaesa Incident,” which is considered to be the starting point of conscientious objection to military service in Korea.
Yonhap News TV, September 4, 2019, The Deungdaesa Incident—First Case of Conscientious Objection Unveiled