Replace broken

Origin of Memorial Day: The DONG-A ILBO

June 6, 1944 is the day of the launch of the Normandy invasion. Twelve years later, Korea declared June 6 Remembrance Day. The official explanation for this is that during the reign of King Hyeonjong in the Goryeo era (the year 1015), there was a custom that the bodies of victims during the war were sent home on June 6 so that the ancestral rites can take place at home. Also, the story says that on Grain in Ear, a solar term, during the Joseon era, there was a custom that the bodies of dead soldiers were buried. Some say that in 1956 that year Grain in Ear fell on June 6, hence Memorial Day.

However, such claims are unreasonable. The custom of burying the dead during the reign of King Hyeonjong in Goryeo times was at war with the Khitan people, so it was not an annual affair. The claim to bury dead soldiers on Grain in Ear also doesn’t make sense, as the term solar comes up every year as wars break out on an irregular basis. Additionally, Grain in Ear falls on one of the busiest times of the year for agriculture. Sowing must be done at this time, so people might have dug up dead bones while plowing, but that has nothing to do with treating those who have fought in war with respect.

Maybe Yeoje would make more sense. It was an ancestral rite that was organized for victims who lost their lives due to war, construction or disasters. Yeoje took place three times a year on Clear and Bright, on July 15 and October 1. Whenever there were casualties from a battle, ceremonies were held in accordance with Yeoje rites. In 1605, Donggwanjin was besieged by an attack from the Jurchen people, killing many soldiers, locals, and even high officials. A rite was held the following February to honor the dead, which included the burial of corpses by gender (typical of Joseon) and the performance of ancestral rites. If Yeoje was the origin of Memorial Day, that would mean that Joseon celebrated Memorial Day three times a year.

Maybe June 6 became Memorial Day because a holiday was needed in June when the Korean War broke out. I’m not saying we should celebrate Memorial Day three times a year like we did in Joseon times or replace it with another date. History in other countries shows that historical dates can be set as holidays based on a single event. June turned out to be the month when the Korean War broke out and the war between Goryeo and the Jurchen people was on a large scale, when the capital was besieged and caused huge casualties. Thus, the event of June 6, 1015 alone would be enough to honor Memorial Day. There’s nothing wrong with the chosen date, it’s just that the historical explanation behind it seems to make sense.