[Editorial] Pursuing martyr Ahn Jung-geun’s wish for East Asian peace

Posted on : 2010-03-27 11:57 KST Modified on : 2010-03-27 11:57 KST

A variety of memorial events were held throughout the country and overseas yesterday to mark the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom of Ahn Jung-geun. In Seoul, a central memorial ceremony was held with Ahn’s descendants, Prime Minister Chung Un-chan and other government figures, and members of the Kwangbokhoe in attendance. Lushun Prison in China, where Ahn died, North Korea and South Korea held a joint memorial.

But even amid these many memorial events, it is difficult to suppress a sense of shame in one corner of the mind. Even today, one hundred years after Ahn was put to death for assassinating then-Japanese prime minister Hirobumi Ito, one of the key figures who masterminded Japan’s colonization of Korea, to achieve independence for the Korean people and peace in East Asia, we have been unable even to locate his remains. The government must work to prevent the people from suffering this shame any longer by working with Japan, which possesses records regarding Ahn, and China, where his remains are buried, to disinter and enshrine his remains as soon as possible.

It is also every bit as important that Ahn’s spirit be carried on. His heroic deeds were not simply intended for the independence of the Korean people. Behind his efforts in the independence movement against Japan, and his assassination of Ito Hirobumi, was an idea of peace, pursuing the equality and coexistence of humankind.

In his essay “On Peace in East Asia,” Ahn precisely pinpointed the problems spawned by imperialist competition, writing, “In today’s world, East and West are divided, the races are all different, and we compete as a matter of course, as we train youths and push them out into the battlefield, and countless precious lives are abandoned like sacrificial objects, the blood becomes a flowing stream and the corpses form mountains.” He explained that at this time of sorrow with Western occupation of the East, the “best measure would be for Eastern people to unite as one for defense.” But because Japan ignored this trend and instead planned its own imperialist aggression against China and Korea, he assassinated Ito out of the judgment that there was no choice but to start a “righteous war for Eastern peace.”

Ahn’s view of peace in East Asia shines even brighter in the reality of today a century later. Capitalist competition has become more extreme, and the division of the Korean people, which has lasted for more than half a century, is threatening peace in East Asia. The recent rise in calls for a “Northeast Asian community” bears some connection with this situation. In that sense, it is undesirable to refer to Ahn as a general, which the Defense Ministry has tried to call him, since it may appear to drag the meaning of his deeds for Eastern peace down to the level of mere nationalism. The most important thing in the praise of Ahn Jung-geun is to carry on his convictions regarding peace.

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

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