[Editorial] Bust of Korean independence hero falls victim to right-wing ideological crusade

Posted on : 2023-09-01 16:58 KST Modified on : 2023-09-01 16:58 KST
The Korea Military Academy plans to relocate the bust of Hong Beom-do, an independence fighter, despite rebuke from the public
The Korea Military Academy unveils the busts of five national independence heroes on March 1, 2018. (Yonhap)
The Korea Military Academy unveils the busts of five national independence heroes on March 1, 2018. (Yonhap)

After receiving fierce backlash for attempting to relocate the busts of independence heroes in step with President Yoon Suk-yeol’s ideological crusade, the Korea Military Academy has come up with a new plan that involves moving only the bust of Gen. Hong Beom-do.

Amid fierce public criticism, this is an arrogant and unhistorical move that seeks to continue the ideological war by branding Hong a communist.

Last week, the academy announced that it would remove and relocate the busts of Hong Beom-do, Ji Cheong-cheon, Lee Beom-seok, Kim Jwa-jin, and Lee Hoe-yeong. On Thursday, it retracted this plan and announced it would remove only the bust of Hong and relocate the rest of the busts to other places on its campus.

In the face of strong public backlash, the Ministry of National Defense has refocused on framing Hong as a communist.

No matter how hard Yoon and the so-called new right try to rewrite history, they cannot change the fact that Hong is one of the most iconic figures of Korea’s armed struggle against Japan during its occupation.

Hong fought for the independence and liberation of his country and people from the late 1890s to the early 1920s, and was a hero who led Korean forces to victory in famous battles in Manchuria.

Liberal and conservative governments have already awarded him the Order of Merit for National Foundation twice. Now, however, the new right is making unsubstantiated claims about Hong’s supposed involvement in the 1921 Free City Disaster in Siberia and trying to label him a “Red” because of his membership in the Soviet Communist Party in his later years after he was forcibly relocated to Kazakhstan by Stalin.

What right does the government and military have to rewrite history like this?

So invested in its war of ideology that it’s coined the neologism “communist totalitarianism,” the Yoon administration is making a mockery of Korea’s military and dangerously dividing the country.

The Ministry of National Defense is being ridiculed for its unprincipled decision to remove the bust of Hong from the Korea Military Academy, which was erected five years ago during the Moon Jae-in administration, while leaving another bust of the general, which was erected at the Ministry of Defense in 1998, intact.

Hong is being eliminated from the lives of the cadets in the academy, with talk of North Korea as South Korea’s “main enemy” being used for the sake of argument. What cadets really need to learn is the life of Hong, who dedicated himself to his homeland and people.

The public is clearly watching how the Yoon administration’s new-right view of history denigrates the history of the anti-Japanese independence movement and the provisional government of the Republic of Korea.

What were the pro-Japanese forces doing when Hong endured toil and tribulation while fighting for Korean independence? And how are we treating him now, after his remains had to be ferried halfway across the world to return to the homeland he fought for?

As the inheritors of an independent Korea hugely indebted to Hong, we feel nothing but remorse for how the general is being treated after dedicating his life to liberating his homeland.

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles