In the autumn of 1979, the streets of Busan, the southern port city, were filled with impassioned cries of dissent.
This was the Busan-Masan Democratic Protests, named after the two cities where it broke out.
It was led by ordinary students who wished to restore democracy and rose up against the so-called Yushin regime.
The Yushin regime was a centralized, authoritarian system formed in 1972 by Korea’s former president Park Chung-hee who changed the Constitution to do away with direct elections.
President Park had made it so he could be reelected an unlimited number of times and gave himself the power to appoint one third of the parliament.
On October 16th, 1979, to protest 7 years of dictatorship, roughly 500 college students took to the streets of Busan in the hope of bringing down the regime.
Their movement soon spread to the city of Masan, a few dozen kilometers away.
How to respond to the unrest sparked conflict among those in power and resulted in President Park's security chief assassinating him several days later on October 26th.
The importance of Busan-Masan protests to the regime's demise, however, would not be widely recognized for years to come.
"The Busan-Masan Democratic Protests almost never came to light. The Yushin regime was destroyed, but the military dictatorship continued under the next ruler, leading to bigger sacfices in the May 18th Gwangju democratization movement and others. So commemorating the Busan-Masan protests as an official national day is acknowledging the fact it contributed to Korea's democratization."
The Busan-Masan protests led ultimately to the system of direct elections in 1987.
Choi Jeong-yoon, Arirang News.