Catholic priest of South Korea
“Today we carry Ahn in our hearts. The hearts of 80 million Koreans, North and South, are Ahn’s tomb.”
On Friday, 100 years after Ahn Jung-geun met his death in a imperial Japanese execution ground, his ancestors from North Korea and South Korea put aside their tensions for a moment as they met for a memorial mass at a hotel in Dalian, where the former Lushun Prison was located. The Ahn Jung-geun Memorial Society, led by Father Ham Se-ung, and an Korean Council of Religionists from North Korea led by Chairperson Jang Jae-un, held the first North Korea-South Korea memorial ceremony after a long period of preparation.
The priests, including Ham, wore red vestments and lit a red candle on the altar, honoring Ahn as a martyr. In the last moment of his life as he was heading towards the execution grounds, Ahn read a will to his two brothers, mother and wife. “Even if I shall go to heaven, I will strive for Korea’s independence. If news of Korea’s independence reaches heaven, I shall dance and cry mansei in celebration.”
In his address, Ham said that while we cannot find Ahn’s body, what is important is that 80 million Koreans in North Korea and South Korea remember his spirit and meaning, live as he did and work so that they become a new generation Ahn Jung-geuns. He prayed for unity and reconciliation between North Korea and South Korea. Jang Jae-on, the chairperson of the Korean Council of Religionists from North Korea, said a century ago, Ahn sacrificed his precious life as if it was a bit of straw to recover Korean independence, in order to recover the national sovereignty which was taken away by the invading Japanese imperialists, and build a prosperous country. He called on North Korea and South Korea to rise up and, like their joint commemoration of Ahn, overcome ideology and work for independent unification.
After this, the group headed to Lushun Prison, where Ahn was martyred. It was raining the entire day 100 years ago on Ahn’s last day, but today clear skies met the procession. At Lushun Prison, a South Korean parliamentary memorial team led by Lawmaker Park Jin and the Lushun Ahn Jung-geun Research Society and Dalian Catholic Church held ceremonies respectively.
An elderly woman dressed in a hanbok laid flowers sent from Korea in front of a statue of Ahn at the prison’s memorial for anti-Japanese martyrs. The woman was Shin Dong-suk, 81, the wife of the late Do Ye-jong, a unification activist who was unjustly executed during the Inhyeokdang Incident of 1975 under Park Jung-hee’s military dictatorship. She said she believed the spirits of Ahn, who died for Korean independence, and her husband, who died wishing for unification, were the same. Laying the flowers, she said she wishes for the Korean people to receive Ahn’s will and move forward with one heart, and that her late husband would also be with the people as well. Yang Yu-gyeong, who brought his three children along for the journey for the memorial ceremony, said he brought them because he wanted them to know Ahn’s spirit and history.
At the memorial hall on the execution grounds where Ahn was killed, the North Korean and South Korean participants sang “Our Wish is Unification.” North Korea’s Jang said he had visited several times before, but today was quite different because North Koreans and South Koreans were participating in the ceremony together. On this day, North Korea and South Korea became one in the spirit of Ahn.
Please direct questions or comments to [email@example.com]