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South Korea Proposes Anti-Japan Memorial in China


An Jung-geun is a national hero in South Korea. In 1909, at the dawn of Japan’s 35-year brutal colonial rule over the Korean peninsula, he killed former Japanese Prime Minister and then-Resident General of Korea Ito Hirobumi at Harbin Train Station in Heilongjiang province, China. He later wrote out 15 reasons why Ito Hirobumi deserved death, including the murder of the Korean empress and the massacre of Korean civilians. Korean schoolchildren now visit his statue in Seoul.

Why does an assassination more than a hundred years ago matter today? Because several days ago the South Korean President, who just finished a very friendly visit to China, proposed that China erect a monument to An on the site of the assassination. “He is a historical figure respected by the peoples of South Korea and China,” Park Geun-hye told the Chinese President over lunch. Xi Jinping said he would instruct the relevant agencies to consider it.

China and South Korea have grown especially friendly recently. Both countries have territorial disputes with Tokyo. Japan’s nationalist Prime Minister has also irked both Beijing and Seoul by questioning the accepted record of Japanese war crimes in World War II. Aggressive Japanese posturing and nationalist rhetoric, as well as a mutual desire to calm the belligerent North Koreans, has brought Seoul and Beijing together and pushed Tokyo into a lonely corner. New South Korean Presidents typically visit the US and then Japan on their first official trips abroad; President Park broke with this tradition when she chose for her second official trip not Japan but China, where she was jubilantly received.

Beijing would love to pull South Korea away from the United States and Japan—and, eventually perhaps, help reunite the Korean peninsula.

[Photo of An Jung-geun courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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  • Philopoemen

    I don’t blame the South Koreans. Japan hasn’t been particularly repentant about its past deeds, whether in Korea or China (see: Nanking)

    • Jim__L

      Aren’t most of the people who perpetrated those deeds dead?

      Pestering the living as if they were guilty just begs for them to resent the injustice of the charges.

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