Korean Liberation Army

The Korean Liberation Army, established on September 17, 1940 in Chungking, China, was the armed force of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. Its commandant was General Ji Cheong-cheon, with General Lee Beom-seok, a hero of the Battle of Cheongsanri and future prime minister of South Korea as the Chief of Staff. Effectively part of the Chinese forces upon which it was dependent, the army was limited by available manpower and did not get much above 339 strong. The KLA became the basis of the modern Republic of Korea Armed Forces.[1]

Korean Liberation Army
Flag of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea.svg
Flag of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea
Active1940 - 1946
AllegianceProvisional Government of the Republic of Korea
RoleGuerrilla warfare
Special operations
Special reconnaissance
Part of National Revolutionary Army
( Kuomintang) (~1944)
Motto(s)"대한독립만세" (Korean)
"Long live the Korean Independence"
MarchLe Chant des Partisans
EngagementsPacific War
FounderKim Gu
Kim Koo
CommandantJi Cheong-cheon
Lee Bum-suk,
Kim Won-bong
Kim Hak-gyu
Park Si-chang
Kim Hong-il
Coat of armsCoat of arms of the Korean Liberation Army.svg
Korean Liberation Army
Korea Independence Army.jpg
Korean Liberation Army
Korean name
Revised RomanizationHan(-)guk Gwangbokgun
McCune–ReischauerHan'guk Kwangbokkun

Early daysEdit

The KLA brought together many Korean guerrilla armies that proliferated in northern Korea, Manchuria and mainland China during the 1920s. After the declaration of war by the Provisional Government against Japan and Germany on December 9, 1941, the units of the KLA participated on the allied side in the Chinese and Southeast Asian theatres. The Regulation regarding the activities of the Korean Liberation Army, imposed by the Chinese Nationalist Government upon the provisional government in 1941, placed the KLA under the supreme authority of the Commander-in-chief of the Chinese army. This regulation was repealed in 1944, after the provisional government had achieved improved financial standing and greater importance in the eyes of the Chinese government.[1]

During this period the KLA sent troops to fight alongside British soldiers in the South-East Asian theatre of World War II by request of the British Army, including the outskirts of Burma and India (especially the Battle of Imphal in the Burma Campaign). In 1943, socialist-aligned guerrilla groups joined the KLA, and their leader, General Kim Wonbong, became the deputy commandant of the KLA. Its numbers were continuously boosted by the influx of Koreans escaping from the Japanese army (into which some in mainland Korea had been impressed) and through the recruitment of Koreans living in China. From its beginnings with an officer corps of 30 men at its foundation in 1941, the KLA grew to a substantial force with 339 in active service by the end of the war.

End of World War IIEdit

KLA Soldier

In 1945, the KLA was working in cooperation with the US Office of Strategic Services to train men for specialist military operations within Korea. The leading units were due to depart on August 20, with General Lee in command.

The KLA's goal was achieved with the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII, prompted by a combination of overwhelming Allied forces, the entry of the Soviet Union into the war removing the last possible mediator for a negotiated peace and adding a potent new enemy, and the devastation of the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The declaration of Japan's intent to surrender on August 15th threw the Korean Peninsula into chaos, while The USSR continued its attacks. The Red Army quickly overwhelmed Japanese forces, gaining the Northern part of the Korean Peninsula, but the US landed in the South and accepted the formal surrender of Japanese forces in the South, marking the division of the Korean Peninsula into de facto spheres of influence between the US and USSR. Korean independence was reaffirmed in the Treaty of San Francisco. With Japanese colonial rule over Korea ended, the KLA disbanded on June 1946.[1][2][3]


Lee Beom-seok with Korean Liberation Army and OSS agents.

The members of the KLA returned to Korea during late 1945 and 1946. Many of its members, including Generals Ji and Lee, became part of the South Korean government, while General Kim contributed to the North Korean regime of Kim Il-sung, who himself claimed to have been a KLA commander.

There has been a movement in South Korea for years to change the National Armed Forces Day from October 1 to September 17 in honor of the foundation of the Korean Liberation Army in 1941.

Army ranksEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "한국광복군" [Korean Liberation Army]. terms.naver.com (in Korean). Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  2. ^ "한국광복군 창건일과 국군의 날".
  3. ^ "[오늘의 경제소사] 1945년 일본 몰락 작전".