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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on Jan. 22)

2014/01/22 07:45

Ahn Jung-geun Memorial

New facility stresses need for Asian peace, harmony

Historical provocations made by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have made the relationship between Korea and China closer than ever before.

Nothing illustrated this better than China’s seemingly abrupt dedication of a memorial hall Sunday honoring Korea’s most famous independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun, at a railway station in Harbin where Ahn shot dead Japan’s first governor-general in Korea, Hirobumi Ito.

The move came as a pleasant surprise for Koreans. During her visit to China last June, President Park Geun-hye asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to set up just a post to commemorate Ahn’s patriotic deed. The Chinese leader more than complied with his Korean counterpart’s request by building a 220-square meter memorial complete with a statue of Ahn, along with an exhibition of his calligraphic works and other relics.

It was a sharp turnaround from a few years ago when Chinese officials tore down Ahn’s statue set up by a Korean businessman in the Northeast Chinese city, in part conscious of expected protest from Japan.

China’s confidence in its growing economic power might have brought about changes in Beijing’s stance, but the increasingly right-leaning Japanese leader and his government must have played a decisive role in making China’s equally rapid break away from what was one of its closest partners until recently.

Tokyo’s reaction to Beijing’s latest move was both egregious and ignorant. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed regret about the “coordinated move by China and Korea based on a one-sided view (of history),” which he said was not conducive to building peace and stability, while describing Ahn as a “terrorist” and a criminal who was given the death sentence.

Had the Japanese government spokesman learned about history a little more and more correctly, he would have known that Ahn killed Ito for exactly the same reason ― to bring about peace and stability in Asia _ a justifiable cause that the late martyr made clear throughout his trial. If Tokyo paints Ahn as a criminal just because he assassinated the Japanese politician who took the lead in invading and trampling on its Asian neighbors, it should also know that Ito and Japan under his leadership committed crimes against the sovereignty of other countries and their peoples on a national scale.

In order to realize what kind of person Ahn was and how grand and noble his thoughts were, Secretary Suga has only to ask one of the many Chinese ― and even quite a few Japanese ― people who worship the Korean hero. Ahn’s posthumous writing, “On Peace in East Asia,” expressed not only heartbreak at Japanese colonization but also his dire wish for peace and co-prosperity among the three Northeast Asian countries with some specific proposals to realize that.

Korea needs ― and wants ― to maintain a balance between its two neighbors, but the regressive Japanese leadership is pushing this country to moving it increasingly closer to China.

The hands of the clock in the Ahn Jung-geun Memorial are fixed at 9:30 a.m., the time when the historic event took place on Oct. 26, 1909. Sadly, the historical clock for Korea, China and Japan also seems to have stopped there, 105 years later.