Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Commemorating Ahn Jung-geun's Death

This got lost among drafts of other posts, but the commemoration of Ahn Jung-geun's death is still worth posting about, I think (especially seeing as I'll be posting about a movie about his life in the near future).

As the Korea Herald told us on the anniversary of his death, March 26, president Lee Myung-bak pledged to find Ahn's remains:
"Today marks the 100th anniversary of Ahn's death. I will do my best as the president (of South Korea). I will seek every means to bring the remains back to South Korea in close cooperation with Japan and China, albeit belated."[...] Ahn was a "patriot who sacrificed himself for the country and its people when they suffered difficulty, and also a pioneer who advocated the peace and conciliation of the world and the East Asian region," the president said.


Above are scenes of him advocating peace and reconciliation from the 2004 film Doma An Jung-geun. The Joongang Ilbo also reported on the commemoration ceremonies:
[I]n Hyochang Park in Yongsan, central Seoul, where the Ahn family shrine is located, a Seoul-based commemorative association held a separate memorial service to pay respects to the freedom fighter.

Ten high schools in Seoul, including Paiwha Girls’ High School, organized events to honor Ahn, such as hand printing, reading his writings and writing letters in his memory.

At Cheonggye Plaza in Seoul was an exhibition of 25 photos depicting Ahn’s history, including pictures of the gun and bullets Ahn used to assassinate the first resident-general of Korea, Hirobumi Ito. [Emphasis added]
Well, as long as they're only advocating "peace and conciliation" and not commemorating assassination, all's well. There was also
a memorial ceremony for Ahn at Luishun prison in the port city of Dalian, northeast China, where he was executed. It was the first ceremony to be held by Korean visitors with the authorization of the Chinese government.

The Grand National Party placed a large portrait of Ahn and placard saying “I am the son of the Republic of Korea” in Korean outside the party’s headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul.

Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun said during the party’s Supreme Council meeting that Ahn’s passion for independence must be respected and honored.
I like the fact both parties are trying to outdo each other in being politically correct. Can you imagine some politician ever questioning the deification of Ahn? Speaking of deities, this article was interesting:
Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, South Korea's highest-ranking catholic priest, created controversy with his remark that seemingly supported the Catholic church's posture 100 years ago in its ambiguous relationship with Ahn Jung-geun[.]

In his sermon this week, which marks the 100th anniversary of Ahn's patriotic act, Cheong said the church's decision 'to suspend the priesthood of a Western priest for three months for his sympathetic involvement in Ahn's final days before the latter's execution was a "best decision" to protect the priest, Hankyoreh said.
The article may be mistaken in saying that this week is "the 100th anniversary of Ahn's patriotic act," unless dangling from a noose is a 'patriotic act'. At any rate, if not a deity, he has become a general, at least; here we see "
documents related to independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun at the “General Ahn Jung-geun Room” at the Army headquarters of Gyeryongdae, South Chungcheong Province[.]"

The Chosun Ilbo and Donga Ilbo also have articles about new documents discovered about his final days, as well as questions about the location of his body. The Korea Herald also has an interview with his granddaughter:
President Lee Myung-bak ordered his government Monday to work with China and Japan on the stalled project. Ahn also requested help from the two governments.

"I'm sure that Japan and China also feel the way we do about the project and that it would put all our hearts and minds to rest if his remains were found," she said.
I doubt very much Japan feels the same way about the project.

The Herald also had an article about attempts to retrieve the sword that killed Empress Myeongseong (which can be seen here (via Korea Beat)):
A committee will be launched today in order to retrieve "Hizendo," the sword used to kill Empress Myeongseong, Korea's last empress, from Japan, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of patriot Ahn Jung-geun's death. [...]

The sword, originally made in the 16th century, had reportedly been used by Katsuaki To, one of the three attackers who killed the Korean empress in 1895. He later donated the sword to the Kushida Shrine [in Fukuoka].

The organizing members of the committee said the sword should be either returned to Korea or destroyed because it symbolizes the tragic development between Korea and Japan.
I can only imagine the response if Japan demanded that a hundreds-of-years-old Korean artifact be given to them or destroyed. I'm sure that final sentence should really help move things along.

7 comments:

Roboseyo said...

"Above are scenes of him advocating peace and reconciliation"

Matt im confused. you said peace and reconciliation, but in the pictures, he's shooting somebody. It's like you're talking opposites. What's going on?

hoihoi51 said...

>The sword, originally made in the 16th century, had reportedly been used by Katsuaki To, one of the three attackers who killed the Korean empress in 1895. He later donated the sword to the Kushida Shrine [in Fukuoka

there are some true documment at that time
http://www.jacar.go.jp/english/index.html

according to these,
http://iroiro.alualu.jp/kennitiryu/kiroku.jpg
『末松法制局長宛石塚英蔵書簡』井上馨文書、国会図書館憲政資料室所蔵

王妃ヲ引キ出シ二三カ所刃傷ニ及ヒ且ツ裸体トシ局部検査(可笑可怒)ヲ為シ最後ニ油ヲ注キ焼失セル等
誠ニ之ヲ筆ニスルニ忍ヒサルナリ其他宮内大臣ハ頗ル惨酷ナル方法ヲ以テ殺害シタリト云フ右ハ仕官モ
手伝ヘタレ共主トシテ兵士外日本人ノ所為ニ係ルモノノ如シ

today's Japanese
入城して実行の任務に当たった守備隊将校兵卒の四つの門の警護の制止を聞かず、門内に侵入し更に野次
馬達は深く内部(建物内)に入り込み王妃を引きずり出し2,3箇所刀傷を負わせ、かつ裸にし局部検査をして
(笑いをくわえ、怒りをくわえながら)気絶(危篤?)させ、最後に油をかけて焼き殺すなど、誠にこれ…


many ordinaly korean ppl(the korean curious onlookers) enter the castle. they took her out from the room and cut her twice.
they neked her and investigated her
genital area
The people in South Korea burnt and killed her.

matt said...

Roboseyo -

You're right. I'll have to correct that.

Moose said...

Good lord, you make irresponsible comments on Ahn Jeung-geun without fully knowing anything about what his philosophies were or what his true intentions were, or what the historical implications of his acts truly meant. The person who was assassinated committed heinous crimes against humanity in countries all over Asia. He would be considered an equivalent to one of Hitler's top generals who killed countless jews. That is why Ahn did what he did. And he did so knowing very well what his fate would be. The Japanese prison guards who had guarded his cell until the moment he was executed had such utmost respect for him after getting to know him (and learning what he represented) during that short period of time that they still pay homage to him till this day through yearly ceremonies. The Chinese people also worship Ahn as a hero of all of Asia, because he did something that they wished they could do but did not have the courage to do so. Ahn's legacy and the meaning behind his act goes beyond Korea and Japan. You seem to think this is just part of the petty squabbling that goes on between these two countries. This was not just some senseless, violent terrorist act as you are trying to depict with your ignorance, trying to portray Ahn as if he were something akin to some crazy, fundamentalist, bloodthirsty killer. Ahn was an intellectual of the highest order, with a genius IQ and extremely noble and high values. He sacrificed himself (and his family) in order to prevent further senseless bloodshed all around Asia by this true "murderer" whose only ambitions were greed and power and subsequent world domination. If you are going to comment on a subject like this, before feeding and spreading your ignorant thoughts as facts to all other foreigners and expats around Korea who might not know about this subject, I suggest that you do some proper research and do the subject justice. You seem to complain a lot about the ignorant Korean media misrepresenting foreigners around Korea. Well, you are doing the exact same thing with your shoddy research and irresponsible reporting. There is a very legitimate reason for Ahn being lauded not only in Korea but all over Asia. And it isn't just because he shot and killed some Japanese leader. By the way, would anyone dare challenge the Jews for criticizing and condemning the German Nazis for their abominable crimes against humanity - that is unless you were a skinhead neo-Nazi? Why do you think Korea is being petty for criticizing Japan's past heinous acts, especially when Japan continues to absolutely refuse any wrongdoing whatsoever. Just because someone denies their actions doesn't mean that they didn't happen. This goes beyond "political correctness." Political correctness is perhaps possible after the party that committed the wrong-doing apologizes for past acts. Do you criticize African-Americans when they condemn white racist Americans for committing acts such as lynching? I think you have to think a little bit beyond your white, Western, privileged way of thinking. This is something quite a bit more profound than what you think it is.

matt said...

No, you're blowing his act of murdering a Japanese statesman (Japan's first prime minister and one of the men who shaped Meiji Japan, in case you don't know) all out of proportion -

The Japanese prison guards who had guarded his cell until the moment he was executed had such utmost respect for him after getting to know him (and learning what he represented) during that short period of time that they still pay homage to him till this day through yearly ceremonies.

Man, they must be pretty old by now. Maybe using something other than Wikipedia as a source might be an idea.

The Chinese people also worship Ahn as a hero of all of Asia, because he did something that they wished they could do but did not have the courage to do so.

And Yi Sun-shin and Kim Il-sung! Don't forget that the Chinese "worship" them too!

Ahn was an intellectual of the highest order, with a genius IQ and extremely noble and high values.

Do you read KNCA regularly? I'll be gobsmacked if what you wrote and this don't sound the same:

He is being highly praised by the world people as the world's great veteran statesman as he performed enormous feats for the cause of global socialism and independence by wisely leading the people's struggle for independence under the uplifted banner of independence against imperialism.

Your glowing description of Ahn and his accomplishments (and the KCNA's description of Kim) reminds me a little of this Korea Times article (Note the use of "transcendent," which would have fit very well in your above sentence).

I am curious, however, why people think Ahn's pan-Asianism was original. It wasn't, and had by 1905 largely been discredited after Korea was 'betrayed' by Japan and the protectorate treaty. It's also mildly hilarious that Ahn's pan-Asianist views are held up as something to be cherished in a country and region that is very nationalist, which is, you know, the opposite of 'pan-Asianist'. Hell, according to the KT,

As he was being interrogated, he shouted, "Ura Korea!" When asked what language he had just spoken, he replied that the phrase could be understood in English, Russian and French. He also shouted "Long Live Korea."

Wouldn't a true pan-Asianist have cried 'Long Live Asia'?

It's hard not to think that Ahn's pan-Asianist views are harped on in Korea in order to try to portray him as someone worthy of respect, since it would be embarrassing to 'worship' a mere assassin. That said, I haven't read his unfinished "동양평화론," but I'd be curious to know if there's anything original in it. I'd also be curious to know if he wrote any articles in papers that supported pan-Asianism, like the Hwanseong Shinmun, prior to shooting Ito, or if his views only became known (or even written down!) after he was put in prison. Hopefully you can fill me in on these things, shoddy researcher that I am.

matt said...

As for this:

The person who was assassinated committed heinous crimes against humanity in countries all over Asia. He would be considered an equivalent to one of Hitler's top generals who killed countless jews.

"[A]ll over Asia?" You're thinking of the war against China and the Pacific War. These took place between 1937 and 1945. Ito was killed in 1909. He had been dead for thirty years. Japan most certainly carried out crimes against humanity during the Sino-Japanese War in 1894 when they invaded Port Arthur and massacred around hundreds of Chinese civilians, but I don't remember Ahn yelling 'Remember Port Arthur!"

As for the Nazi comparison... I wouldn't use Jo Jung-rae as a reference.

Really now, if Koreans cared so much about Korean nationalists who contributed something important intellectually to the nationalist movement, you'd see far more articles about/ reverence for Shin Chae-ho or Ahn Chang-ho. But no. All the yammering about Ahn's philosophy is window dressing to justify admiration for a killer, and narratives portraying Ahn's life do not climax with him writing "동양평화론," they climax with him pumping hot lead into Ito.

Not that Ahn is the only assassin commemorated by the state in Korea, mind you.

As for political correctness, that would be my description of the situation in Korea wherein everyone, no matter what their political leanings are, has to say nice things about Ahn every time one these anniversaries comes around, because saying anything outside the bounds of this 'worship' would bring about a nasty backlash.

Exit86 said...

I was surprised at the sudden worship of An a few weeks back in the media. One day--nothing; the next day--An is everywhere in the
S.Korean news, documentaries, internet, etc.

I recently administered a survey to over 200 S.K.university students which asked "If you could be any person from Korean history, who would you be?"

Of course the most common answer
was "King Sejong"

The others were as follows:

Lee Sun Shin, Ahn Jung-geun, Queen Min, NonGae, Yu Kwan Sun, Non Gae,
King KoJong, and Kim Ku.

I was very surprised at these findings. Of course there were the other standard K. historical figures (Shin Sa Im Dang, Hwang Jin Yi, Yi Song Gye, Kim Yu Shin, etc).

The former list surprised me because each of these figures became famous because they hated Japan and acted accordingly.

What does this tell us about the Korean educational policies in terms of Korean history?

--students are taught in a government institutional setting to hate Japan for things that happened long ago

--students are taught about a very small number of Korean historical figures/"heros"
[I believe Shin Chae Ho is responsible for a great deal of this in developing his "New History" for Korea in reaction to an ever-encroaching Japanese replacement history. It is interesting to note that Shin was a very big admirer of Thomas Carlyle's book "On Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History" where Carlyle discusses the study of select figures from history whose actions appear to uphold the dominant ideology of the a nation.]

--students are being taught more about the weaknesses of the Korean culture in the past as opposed to its strengths

--students are not being taught history in a way which would help them remember and think about
a variety of figures in Korea's history (including very important "foreign" historical figures and the contributions thay have made to Korea--the subject of a different survey I did several years ago where I asked students to identify Westerners in Korean history including: Horace Underwood, Hendrick Hamel, Horace Allen, Jan Janse Weltevree, Gregorio Cespedes, Mary Scranton, and a few others. Needless to say, the students fared very poorly.)