Monday, October 26, 2009

A 'fanatic', a 'miscreant', 'bloodthirsty': How the Japanese perceived An Jung-geun

Today is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Ito Hirobumi by An Jung-geun. Here are contemporary reports from the Japan Times, which I recently found out is carried on microfilm at the local university library (from 1897-1909). Just prior to this, in September 1909, Japan and China had worked out the Jiandao Convention, defining Korea by its present northern boundaries, and in late October Ito was visiting Manchuria. This article from October 26 (pg2) gives some background:
Prince Ito’s Tairen Speech –
The Kokumin’s Tokyo Letter (Oct. 22) discusses four important points in Prince Ito’s speech at Tairen which may be taken as a manifesto of Japan’s Chinese policy. The Prince emphasises, in the first place, the importance of the maintenance of peace in the Far East to the welfare of the Japanese Empire and the heavy responsibility falling on Japan for maintaining that peace. Secondly, the prince points out the close relations Manchuria has with that peace, and insists on the necessity of maintaining the principles of open door and equal opportunity in that field. Thirdly, the Prince alludes to the serious consequences of the success or failure of Chinese reforms upon the Far Eastern situation, and expressed Japan’s willingness to give direct and indirect aid to China’s success in that work. Fourthly, he declared the development of Manchuria must be effected by the co-operation of Japan, China, Russia, and all the Powers who have interests there. The paper is anxious that Americans should bear these words in mind as being Japan’s own declaration through Prince Ito’s mouth. Thus, although the noble visitor to Manchuria himself avows no other object for his tour other than mere personal observations, yet the paper is hopeful of beneficial results coming from the trip. His meeting with the Russian Finance Minister at Harbin and with native officials in Manchuria is bound to enhance these results.
The next day (pg2) explains further:
There is both advantage and disadvantage in being great, so that when a man of international eminence, like Prince Ito, goes abroad, the public both abroad and or [sic] home will insist upon reading into his travels some significant mission, which he generally ends in accomplishing, sometimes even in spite of himself. The advantage or disadvantage of greatness, which may be personal, national, or international, will, however, depend almost altogether on the estimation the public has come to form of the characteristic attributes of the man. These remarks, borne out by experience and observation, as we believe, would justify us in saying that the present trip of Prince Ito on the continent, though any political object of it has been disavowed by himself, has by the force of circumstances, assumed the character of a mission of its own, the importance of which cannot be over-estimated, as it is, all in favour of international good understanding and of dissipating many misconceptions formed about this country.

As we write we are in receipt of a Harbin dispatch, conveying a most disastrous piece of news which suddenly robs us of the train of thought we have been persuing. It says that Prince Ito is in a serious condition as a result of an attempted assassination by a Korean miscreant at Harbin. Dumbfounded we stop, only to express our most fervent hope that particulars to follow will prove His Excellencies injuries to be not so dangerous as reported, and also to add our sorrow that the blood spilt of Korea’s best and sincerest friend will forever remain a dark stain on her, to say nothing of the heavy veil of gloom that now hangs over Japan and the Japanese nation.
This also appears on the same page:
KOREAN NEWS
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THE WORK OF THE PUNITIVE
EXPEDITION TO SOUTH KOREA

A Seoul Dispatch states that the punitive force under command of Major-General Watanabe has withdrawn from South Korea after a very successful campaign. The troops have taken 1,055 prisoners and killed 334 insurgents who made resistance. Ninety-five muskets and 33 swords were also taken. There are no signs now of insurgents except one or two ringleaders.
This appears on page 3:


PRINCE ITO SHOT
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AT HARBIN
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ONE OF THE BULLETS TAKES EFFECT.

An official despatch received from Harbin says that Prince Ito was shat at several times by some Koreans, just as the His Excellency landed at the platform of Harbin Station at 9 o’clock Tuesday morning. One of the bullets took effect. The telegram does not say how serious the wound is or who the Koreans were.

HIS EXCELLENCY SUCCUMBS AT LAST.

A later dispatch received at the Mitsui Bussan Kaisha yesterday states that Prince Ito was shot by a Korean at Harbin station that morning at eleven. His Excellency died on the spot. Mr. Kawakami, Consul General, and Mr. Tanaka, Director of the South Manchurian Railway Co., sustained slight injuries. The ruffian was arrested on the spot.

An article the next day notes that Kawakami was hit in the right arm, Tanaka in the foot, and “Private Secretary Mori was hit by a bullet that passed through his arm and shoulder.”

We find more in this Oct 28 article (pg2):
THE LATE PRINCE ITO

“I have given my life to the state and to my country; I shall not regret when, where, or by whose hands I fall.” These are the words which Prince Ito oft repeated whenever warned of personal danger. The great man is now no more. He is gone a victim of Korean fanatics. The nation, high and low, universally and most profoundly mourns over the loss of this world figure so unexpectedly taken away from it. […]

Now this noble-minded man, the greatest of our statesmen has met a cruel death at the hands of a Korean assassin. The thought will no doubt rankle in the nation’s mind for a long, long time to come. But nothing would be more ill-timed for our compatriots than to be carried away by the passion of the moment. The assassin may have accomplices, but they are no doubt of a class ignorant and blinded by prejudice that can no doubt be found in any country, and we must not regard them as representative of Koreans and the Korean nation. If Prince Ito had a voice now to speak, we feel quite certain that he would resent most strongly any suggestions to avenge his death on Korea. The Prince really had the best wishes for Korea and for the promotion of sincere friendship between the two countries. Nothing would be more desecrating to his memory, therefore, than to contemplate acts that would tend to undo the plans the Prince left behind for the guidance and regeneration of Korea. We cannot help warning our countrymen, especially those in Korea to be mindful of how they act and what they say about that country at this juncture. Large heartedness shown at a moment like this will bear fruit that will never be reaped by any harsh, vindictive action. To be thus disposed will be another way of paying the highest tribute to the departed Prince.
On the next page:
Detailed reports published by the Kokumin say: - When the special train carrying Prince Ito arrived at Harbin, the Prince held a conversation with M. Kokovtsoff for about 20 minutes, after which he alighted on the platform and exchanged greetings with the officers and officials. By the request of the Russian Finance Minister, the Prince then passed in front of the line of Russian troops. He had just come to the end of the line when a Korean in European clothes fired at him with a pistol. The Prince was taken into the carriage, and due measures were immediately taken to attend to his wounds but he expired at about 10. The culprit was at once arrested by Russian soldiers.

THE PRINCE’S WOUNDS

One shot pierced the upper right arm and grazing the side near the arm pit entered horizontally at the seventh rib. Another bullet piercing the right elbow on the outer side, and, passing along the upper arm on the inside, and turning slightly inward, entered at the ninth rib, piercing the lung and diaphragm and lodged in the left ribs. The third shot entered the abdomen just above the peritoneum and lodged in the muscles. Two of these wounds were mortal and no help could be rendered.

THE ASSASSIN

The assassin is about 24 years old and goes by the name Shi Mei-shou (though this is still uncertain). He is not a native of Fusan, but he left that place for Vladivostok, whence he came to Harbin on the 25th. That night he slept out of doors near the station, and next morning he mixed himself with the waiting Japanese. He claims that he recovered the honour of Korea which was dishonoured by the Prince. He declares that he committed the act solely on his own initiative, and that he had no accomplice, but the authorities do not credit his word on this point. On the day previous, two Koreans were seized at Seikakang (?) in Sungari and when searched, both were found to be armed with pistols. They were consequently taken under escort to Harbin. These two stated on the morning of the 26th that their companions were 30, one of whom had attained their common object. On the morning of the 25th, an unsigned telegram was sent to a Korean in Harbin which was suspiciously worded. These incidents prompted the Russian authorities to exercise on strict vigilance, but in spite of this the regrettable incident occurred.[...]

THE PRESS ASSOCIATION’S RESOLUTION

Despatches from Seoul dated Oct. 27 state that the Press Association sat far into the night on the 26th and made the following resolutions: - That Prince Ito’s assassination was the result of anti-Japanese feeling in Korea and in order to dissipate such errors and avoid the repetition of the horrible crime, the final resolution should be adopted by the Japanese authorities; That the Korean Emperor proceed at once to Japan to apologize to the Emperor.
On page six the assassin is described when speaking of
the unnatural death of Prince Ito, who fell a victim to the hand of an assassin, a reckless Korean miscreant …. A Korean named Un Chi-an … the bloodthirsty…heinous assassin.
The next day, October 29, describes him further (pg2):
The assassin, who gave the name Un Chi-an, was arrested on the spot by Russian guards and was handed over to the Japanese authorities. He is now under examination and says that he is from Phyongyang . As to his accomplices, no definite report is as yet to hand.
On the same page we find this:
KOREAN NEWS
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THE COURT SORROW STRICKEN

The Emperor was really shocked by the news of the terrible end of Prince Ito on Tuesday and did not retire to bed until three o’clock the following morning. The Retired Emperor learned the sad news while taking supper and was so shocked that His Majesty dropped a dish from his hand. Lady Om, being anxious for the Crown Prince in Tokyo, was in tears.
On page 3 the same day, we find responses from the foreign press.
Speaking of the Times [of London] it said “the paper wished that Japan’s Korea policy inaugurated by the enlightened hero of heroes should not be changed at this perilous juncture.[...]

Some papers referred to the ungrateful attitude of Koreans towards Japan, saying it was comparable to that of Indians towards Great Britain. The policy with which the Late Prince had been guiding Korea with indefatigable zeal and yet he had become the victim of the dastard Koreans.[...]

Among the unanimous regrets with regard to the death of Prince Ito throughout the press in Europe, the Ross is the only exception in attributing the death to the Japanese oppression of Korea.[...]

“The New York Sun has stated that the Prince was one of best friends to Korea[.]”

The World stated that the Korean question had been settled and nothing could now change the fate of the peninsula. But the consequence will be only the prolongation of a more high-handed policy in Korea. The Tribune has said that the outrage was not the fault for Koreans in general, as it was perpetrated by a fanatic, admitting that the progress in Korea was due to the efforts of Prince Ito.
On October 30, more is written (pg2):
THE SORROW OF THE KOREAN CROWN PRINCE

[T]he Korean Crown Prince is sorrow-stricken by the untimely death of his Grand Tutor. The young Prince is especially sad at heart because of the fact that the ruffian who has perpetrated the crime is one of his own people.[...]

THE KOREAN EMPEROR

The Emperor of Korea, accompanied by his suite went on Thursday afternoon to the Residency General and expressed his deep sympathy with the tragic end of Prince Ito, saying that His Majesty was prepared to take any steps which might be best adapted to show his sympathy. The Emperor of Korea intends to confer a posthumous name on the late Prince. His Majesty has also decided to contribute a sum of 30,000 towards the funeral fund. Prince Wi Hoa left yesterday for Japan with the above mentioned name and the gift.
We also find out more about the killer:
A Seoul report says that it is stated that the assassin belongs to the Syo Peuk Hak Hoi and has been leading a vagrant life. […] According to a later report, the pistol used by the assassin was a Browning pistol. […] With regard to the trial of the criminal who shot Prince Ito at Harbin, Count Komura, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on Wednesday issued an instructions to the Kwantung Government to try the case in its court.
The same day, on the next page, was a telegram written to the Russian minister in Tokyo by the Russian Minister of Finance M. Kokovtseff, who of course witnessed the attack:
Harbin, Oct. 26th.
Today at 9 a.m. at the arrival of Prince Ito in Harbin, when His Excellency, having alighted from his car, together with myself and the local Russian authorities, passed before the front of a guard of honour, came up to the group of civil authorities and foreign Consuls, a man with a Browning pistol fired several shots from behind the backs of the latter by which the Prince was mortally wounded. At the same time Mr. Tanaka was slightly wounded in the leg, Consul General Kawakami severely but not dangerously wounded, and Mr. Mori slightly wounded.

The murderer who appears to be Korean was arrested, and during the inquest stated that he had come to Harbin specifically to kill Prince Ito, to avenge the wrongs done to his country, and also because Prince Ito had sentenced to death several of his relatives; he also said that he was happy he that he succeeded to carry out his criminal intention. The plot was evidently prearranged. Yesterday at the station Dziadziagow (?) our police arrested three suspicious Koreans armed with Browning pistols. Consul General Kawakami asked the Russian railway police to let all Japanese subjects freely enter the Harbin Station, and it was absolutely impossible to distinguish the murderer, as a Korean, from the Japanese.
Within a year, there would be no need to distinguish Japanese from Korean subjects, as they would be one and the same (though they certainly weren't treated the same).

Also, it was thirty years ago today that Park Chung-hee was killed by Kim Jae-gyu, the head of the KCIA. I've written about it a bit here and here.

Here is Kim Jae-gyu re-enacting the murder.



Sitting next to him is Kim Gye-won, the Blue house chief secretary, who Kim didn't kill and who eventually revealed he was the killer. He also appears in the back, second from right in this photo, taken in the late 1970s:


In the front row we have the Park family - Geun-hye, Geun-young, Park Chung-hee, and Ji-man, as well as Jeong Seung-hwa (army chief of staff); in the back row is Chun Doo-haan (head of Defense Security Command), Cha Ji-cheol (Blue House security chief), and Kim Gye-won (Blue house chief secretary). None of his family was present the night he died, though everyone else, other then Chun, was. Jeong was in a separate part of the compound, and had been supposed to dine separately with Kim Jae-gyu that night before the dinner with Park was announced, so Kim entertained Chung separately. Kim killed Park and Cha, though left Kim Kye-won unharmed. At the cabinet meeting when prime minister Choi Gyu-hwa was made president, Chun Doo-hwan would be chosen to investigate the assassination. From there lies the path to the 12.12 coup and the Kwangju Uprising.

To get a better sense of what happened that night, watching The Presidents Last Bang would likely help, as it stays quite close to the known facts about that night, and is a great film, unlike 'An Jung-geun' or '2009 Lost Memories', which are not.

20 comments:

kushibo said...

I wrote this entire post before realizing you'd also covered the same material (and with the same recommendation to watch The President's Last Bang).

And I linked to this thorough post here, though it's not showing up at the bottom (I've never been able to figure those things out on Blogspot). Nice, thorough job I'll probably refer back to in the future.

Helen said...

It's very interesting to see how two countries have different viewpoints for an incident.
Thanks for great work on this.

matt said...

Thanks. I've always been very impressed with Japan's English language propaganda in the early 1900s as they took over Korea. Japanese English speakers (or their foreign representatives and friends, like D.W. Stevens, George Kennan and George Trumbull Ladd) were very eloquent and could really sugarcoat Japanese intentions or paint Koreans in the worst ways. This review of Hulbert's 'Passing of Korea' is just amazing, beginning by slandering Gojong and then suggesting Hulbert was being paid to be dishonest about Korea.

Related to this is the fact that Ito was one of the first five Japanese students to study in Europe in the early 1860s, and spoke English well. (Of course, Syngman Rhee also learned English quickly, and was apparently teaching it within a few months of having started learning it.)

Oh, and there's a musical about Ahn titled 'Hero' out now...

Peter Kim said...

The attempt to glorify Ito is based on the premise that colonialism was justifiable human history or even beneficial to the colonized nations. And I do not agree with the assumption. Colonialism itself was a shameful past full of evilness that should not be repeated.

And any Japanese, including Ito did not have rights to decide how Korea should be modernized. Ito’s modernization plan of Korea itself was already violation of Korea’s sovereignty and independence. Koreans, including Emperor Gojong, did not ask Japanese to modernize Korea. And Japanese killed Queen Min when Korea tried to keep away from Japanese influence.

Colonial Japanese were like surgeons who forced to do surgery on a person against her will. Korea had the rights to decide which countries could be partners of modernization of Korea. Colonization process of Korea itself was already violence and evil. The theory of lesser evil does not justify Ito. He was just the one of the criminals who usurped Korea’s sovereignty. The argument should be about choosing the better, not about choosing the lesser evil.

Helen said...

I'm also very impressed when I see foreigners who are fluent in Korean. Learning other language is still difficult for me.>.<
And for that,I respect 이승만.
He also learned English in Korea. right?
Thanks for the information about the musical.but,not my taste..

matt said...

Helen, I wrote about how the Japanese and Koreans (and foreign missionaries) argued in the New York Times during the 삼일 movement here, which mentions letters like this that Syngman Rhee wrote (on the right hand side of the page).

Peter,
I'd imagine you'd find the links above interesting as well. And yes, no one is going to argue that colonialism was a good thing, but neo-colonialism isn't so different, as Filipinos who see their beaches carted off to Pohang, entire areas bought up by Koreans (some of whom literally get away with murder there), or people in Madagascar, where Daewoo's plan to buy a huge amount of land contributed to political turmoil, might tell us.

Often what is left out in the conqueror-victim dichotomy that is used in Korea to look at the colonial period is that if Japan had done nothing, it stood to suffer at the hands of western powers (as Korea most likely would have, perhaps being swallowed by Russia). To Japan, the Korean peninsula was a 'dagger' pointed at it's heart, and much as the US or Britain (or Rome!) have tried to ensure that countries that had vital resources were run by friendly governments or taken over entirely, Japan considered Korea vital to its interests, and even to some degree to its existence. The Russo-Japanese War especially was fought to keep the Russians out of Korea (and Manchuria).

That's not to condone what they did, but keeping their position in mind helps to explain it somewhat - though doesn't explain the need for such brutality in the way they ruled, especially during the 1910s and 1930s-40s.

As for Taft-Katsura (which you mentioned in another comment),I think Taft-Katsura was essentially a sideshow, and a memorandum in which the US was more looking to confirm that Japan would keep out of the Philippines, where its hands were already full; the idea that it could somehow defend Korea is unlikely, considering the strength of the US military at the time. I'd be wary of falling into the trap of perceiving the US then as being as powerful as the US now. While Roosevelt actually said in 1900, before being elected as vice-president, that he thought 'Japan should have Korea', and he hosted the Portsmouth Peace conference in 1905 which ended the war and made formal the placing of Korea in Japan's sphere of influence, it was actually the British-Japanese 1902 alliance that allowed Japan to wage war against Russia without having to worry about other European powers getting involved. Yes, in the 1930s, I believe, the memorandum came to light, and some Americans, like Gregg, find fault in it, but ignoring the UK-Japanese alliance would be a mistake, I think. Plus, I think the desire in Korea to blame the US for colonization via Taft-Katsura is more a retroactive product of the rise of anti-Americanism in the post Kwangju Uprising period.

Peter Kim said...
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Peter Kim said...
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Peter Kim said...

Matt,

I do not argue that Koreans have been impeccable in exploitation of poor people or overseas countries. I have sympathy on foreign workers mistreated in Korea. I would harshly blame Koreans about the faults.

While you fully recognized that (neo-) colonialism is bad, and in my opinion evil, it is surprising to me that you sound quite fascinated by Japanese colonizers.

kushibo said...
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kushibo said...

Peter Kim wrote:
But I will not ask your compassion on Koreans about the situation, since you are one of the spectators and you seem to be quite fascinated by Japanese colonizers.

Peter, I say this not out of hatred or disrespect or anger, but because you need to step back and think a bit before you say some of the things you do.

With this description of matt, you are clearly barking up the wrong tree. The body of his work is anything but an adulatory or admiring fascination with the Japanese colonizers of Korea. Go back to his archives in 2005, 2006, 2007, etc., and you can see him doing battle with people who truly see Japan's rule as not so bad, misunderstood, or even good for Korea (see here and here, for example).

Peter, I appreciate the polite way you have presented your rather passionately-held opinions, but you need to step outside your own fervor for a minute and examine the validity of what I, matt, and Won Joon Choe have been saying. Questioning An's exalted status or wondering if the assassination of Itō was bad are not the same thing as justifying Japan's colonial rule.

That so many people are afraid to publicly question these ideas or go off the nationalist script is a sign that something is very, very wrong. I'm a semi-anonymous blogger (though there are many who know me personally in the K-blogs), as is matt, but I know for a fact that there are people positioned to do professional or personal harm to people who dare to question this questionable national narrative regarding An or Itō.

kushibo said...

as Filipinos who see their beaches carted off to Pohang

I read some things this guy has written, and some of it is in league with the most xenophobic writers of the Korean press:

But lately, I’m afraid, the relationship between Koreans and Filipinos has begun to sour. Have you noticed how they have swelled in numbers lately, especially in the urban centers of Luzon and the Visayas? Why is it that I am getting this feeling that we have been invaded?

In places where they have established their beachheads (if there is indeed, an invasion), the South Korean is definitely the most ubiquitous among visiting foreign nationals.

In Metro Manila, they have added their loud voices to the usual din in such public places as malls and theaters, casinos, restaurants and bars, and other popular entertainment havens. In fact, many of them already own and run the bars, poker clubs and restaurants all over Metro Manila.

Even in the local private schools, there is a noticeable increase in the swarm of South Korean students enrolled at every level from grade school to tertiary. The number of South Korean enrollees in our private schools has exponentially grown, according to the Bureau of Private Schools. This tells us that more and more Koreans have made themselves at home in this country full of smiling, hospitable folk.

The local folk in Eastern and Central Visayas can’t help but notice that more and more South Koreans have begun to settle down and get into all sorts of small businesses right in their turf.

I have yet to find out if the bureau is keeping track of them. We know that as a matter of policy, the government encourages the entry of tourists and foreign investors. But the sheer number of South Koreans coming, I’m afraid, is beginning to spawn a host of problems.

Filipinos who come in contact with them all over the country are beginning to question their motives and resent their presence. I know for a fact that as proprietors of restaurants, bars or poker clubs, they have often been denounced for their shabby treatment of their workers.

Theoretically, the wealth and technical know-how they bring in would be mutually beneficial to them and the host country. But reports have been coming in with disturbing frequency that some Korean groups don’t give a hoot what permanent damage they may do here in satisfying their lust for profit.


If something like this were written about English teachers or foreigners in Korea in general, the K-blogs would (rightly) be all over it.

Frankly, I have no idea if the point he makes about sand and beaches is valid or if it's an exaggeration.

In addition to his shoddy fact-checking on Korea-Japanese relations ("Their guttural accent and the syllables of their words make them sound like Japanese. This is the unmistakable mark of a people whose country had endured almost four decades of Japanese occupation.") one has to wonder what kind of shoddy fact-checking he did on the Jisan case.

When he says...

At least five of the six municipalities that had once been proud of those quaint beachfronts are now gone, permanently reclaimed by the sea.

... that just sets off alarm bells? Five of six of these municipalities have been reclaimed by the sea? The population stats I saw when this came out didn't support that at all.

I wouldn't be surprised if Jisan is doing some environmentally questionable stuff, but "neo-colonialism"? Should I go apologize to Australian tourists the next time I'm in Waikiki because Hawaii got its sand for construction, golf courses, and beach erosion from Australia?

Seriously, that article was a xenophobic hack job and it shouldn't be cited by anyone making a serious case. If Jisan and/or other South Korean companies are doing some bad sh¡t down there, there would undoubtedly be other, better sources than this.

matt said...

Peter:
I'm not big on defining things in black or white terms. As Kushibo kindly pointed out, I've argued against those who saw only good in colonization, and I'm just as willing to argue against those who see only evil (or who see only good in Ahn's actions).

Kushibo:
I was just indulging my sense of humour - if I'd warned you it wouldn't have had the same jaw-dropping effect. Koreans' guttural syllables which make them sound Japanese are due to being colonized by the Japanese, indeed. Classic.

There's a reference to Jisan here, in the Philippines' 'most widely read' paper (though it's an opinion article) and a study of the effects on the mining of the area is quoted here (though there's no reference to Jisan in it).

Peter Kim said...
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Peter Kim said...
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Peter Kim said...
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Peter Kim said...
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Peter Kim said...

Kushibo,

I know for a fact that there are people positioned to do professional or personal harm to people who dare to question this questionable national narrative regarding An or Itō.

I know Koreans tend to get upset about the reasoning that excludes the possibility of independence of Korea. But I never heard of people who do harm to those who have different views. Is there any organization or cases that you have known or experienced (other than the graduate school of history at Yonsei you mentioned)?

Peter Kim said...

commented the same at Kushibo's blog, but I repost it here because it would be helpful to clarify my thought:

The fundamental discrepancy in our opinions, I think, originates from the scope of options Koreans could take.

1.Complete independence of Korea
2.Protectorate (partial annexation)
3.Annexation

Your narratives are limited only to the choices of No. 2 and 3, which I consider represents the colonizers’ view. No wonder Koreans get upset whenever they read that kind of reasoning.

When Ahn shot Ito, he intended the choice No. 1, not any other else. And most Koreans had the same in their minds. Ito’s scheduled meeting with Kokovsoff did not mean anything to Koreans, because it would be all about the choice No. 2 and 3 and Koreans were excluded from the dialogue. I think Ahn clearly sent messages to the world that what Koreans desire is the complete independence from Japan, not anything else.

Actually, as a result of worldwide resistance to colonialism, many countries got recognized their independence after the World War II. Even if protectorate status had lasted and annexation never had happened, Korea might have become more assimilated to Japan and more and more dependent on Japan in every sphere of life, which would result in weakening of causes for independence. Many countries in the world could not achieve independence even after WWII, could they?

matt said...

Your narratives are limited only to the choices of No. 2 and 3, which I consider represents the colonizers’ view. No wonder Koreans get upset whenever they read that kind of reasoning.

I'm sorry to stick to such 'upsetting' reasoning based on historical fact. I'm not sure if you've noticed or not, but choice 1 did not happen. If you want to argue for some fairy tale world in which Korea kept its independence, fine, go nuts. But Korea did not keep its independence. I'd agree, it'd be nice if Korea could have, but it didn't.

You mention postwar decolonization without mentioning the fact that the number of non-western countries around the world that escaped colonization can be pretty much counted on one hand. Most of those were at the cleavages of empires: Thailand between British and French zones, Afghanistan (still a protectorate) between British and Russian zones, and China, who everyone wanted a piece of. Why you think Korea - one of the last countries to open to the outside world - could have escaped the realities of that time I'm not certain. My pointing out this historical reality does not mean I support it.

What we disagree on here is whether Ahn's actions had value. I think the value of his actions are exaggerated, you do not. This isn't surprising, as it seems education, the media, and statements by politicians in Korea support this version of events:
Many Koreans fought for independence against the Japanese imperialists, like Ahn and Yun Bong-gil and Kim Ku. In 1945, Korea became independent.

How Korea became free isn't worth mentioning, and as Scott Burgeson points out in his book 더 발칙한 한국학, this version of history isn't so different from the North Korean version (Kim Il-sung's guerrillas freed Korea, not America). In the South Korean version, America's part is simply omitted. You see the similar convergence of ROK and DPRK thinking with historical films that have been released this decade.

My looking at Ahn's assassination from the Japanese point of view is not an attempt to glorify Ito, but an attempt to look at things from the other side. It's too bad you seem to feel such a nuanced view is offensive.