Political Thinker Ahn Jung-geun Looked 100 Years into the Future
Political Thinker Ahn Jung-geun Looked 100 Years into the Future
  • By Chun Go-eun (info@koreaittimes.com)
  • 승인 2015.12.01 10:45
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In September, Japan’s parliament gave final approval to legislation expanding the overseas role of the Japanese military and allowing Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense -- a long-sought-after goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. As a result, Japan has become a war-ready country gain.

To counterbalance China’s ever-growing clout, the US has reinforced its alliance with Japan; China-Japan territorial disputes have sent Sino-Japanese relations souring rapidly. Conflicts of interest among powers surrounding the Korean peninsula are taking on more complex shapes day after day.

Ahn Jung-geun said “Throw away your invasion ambitions” in his book titled “Oriental Peace Theory.”

As this year marks the 105th anniversary of the death of patriotic martyr Ahn Jung-geun, his Oriental Peace Theory has been thrown back into the limelight. His book Oriental Peace Theory, albeit unfinished, was written while Ahn was incarcerated for the 1909 killing of Hirobumi Ito (the first resident governor of then Japanese-run Korea) in Harbin, China.

In the book, Ahn described his times as an era ruled by the law of the jungle and called on imperialist powers including Japan to abandon their ambitions to encroach on other countries.

And he called on Korea, China and Japan to unite in making steps forward and join forces to bring peace to Asia and to the world.

Though the book was written more than 100 years ago, his political vision, experts say, is similar to what gave rise to the creation of the EU and the concept of a joint bank envisioned by Ahn for the sake of economic development bears some resemblance to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the IMF.

He has been regarded as an excellent political thinker with 100-year foresight. However, embroiled in political upheavals, such as the 4-19 Revolution and the 5-16 coup d'état, the government had failed to carry out studies on independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun and draw national attention to his legacy since Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

It was not until 1970 that long-overdue respect started to be paid to Ahn. In 1970, the Ahn Jung-geun Memorial Hall was finally built though donations in Namsan Park in central Seoul. And the Ahn Jung-geun Memorial Hall was renovated in October 2010  using a government budget, which was the result of strenuous efforts made by the Association for the Commemoration of the Patriot Martyr Ahn Jung-geun and the Korea Liberation Association.

Above all, a statue of Ahn Jung-geun was erected at the National Assembly Memorial Hall (Visitors Center) in November, thus providing general visitors to the National Assembly, as well as politicians, with a chance to pay their respects to Ahn.

Chinese visitors to the Ahn Jung-geun Memorial Hall in Harbin outnumber Koreans.

China also thinks highly of Ahn’s notion of oriental peace, love of his nation and great spirit. China has opened a memorial hall to honor Ahn Jung-geun at Harbin Railway Station, where Ahn Jung-geun shot dead Hirobumi Ito. On top of that, China has pledged its support for the excavation of Ahn’s remains.

As of September, the number of visitors to the Ahn Jung-geun Memorial Hall at Harbin Railway Station, which was opened to the public in January 2014, surpassed the 200,000 mark.

According to the memorial hall’s officials, Korean Chinese and Koreans had mainly visited the memorial hall in the early days of its opening, but these days the majority of visitors to the memorial hall are Chinese. It is probably because the Chinese government has widely promoted the Ahn Jung-geun Memorial Hall at Harbin Railway Station in celebration of the the 70th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II.

Youth exchange programs are also in the pipeline. The Association for Friendly Exchanges between Korean and Chinese Cities has recently agreed with China’s Lüshun City to run a youth exchange program aimed at helping youths have a better understanding of Ahn Jung-geun. Program participants will visit Lüshun Prison and receive historical lessons on Ahn’s thoughts of independence and peace.

China-Korea joint efforts to excavate the remains of Ahn Jung-geun

China and South Korea will join hands in searching for the remains of Ahn Jung-geun, which have been missing for the past 105 years. His remains are estimated to have been buried in the eastside hill near the prison where he was executed. Doctors who worked at Lüshun Prison and other relevant people testified that they heard Ahn was buried in the nearby eastside hill.

Recently, the Ministry of Patriots & Veterans Affairs has contacted the Chinese government several times and requested the Chinese government’s approval for excavation work at the site. In November, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn also asked Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang to lend his support to excavation work in China. Li Keqiang promised his support, saying: “Independence fighter Ahn is a hero to Chinese people as well. We understand how important it is to Koreans.”

There is a high chance of North Korea taking part in the excavation work. The Chinese government is said to have advised North Korea to partake in inter-Korean joint investigations because North Korea could later lay claim to the remains of Ahn.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Patriots & Veterans Affairs plans to include the excavation of the remains of Ahn in the agenda for the next inter-Korean talks.

Who is Thomas Ahn

Ahn Jung-geun was born in 1879 Gwangseok-dong in Haeju-bu, Hwanghae-do. When he was six years old, he was smart enough to receive a Chinese classics lesson at a private village school established by his grandfather Ahn In-su.

At 16, Ahn was in the vanguard of the righteous army organized by his father Ahn Tae-hun and became known for his bravery. In 1897, Ahn was baptized by Father J. Wilhelm (Korean name Hong Seok-gu); Ahn received his baptismal name "Thomas" and learned French. When Bishop Gustave Charles Marie Mutel’s proposal to found a university was not accepted in 1899, Ahn gave up learning French. Ahn went to Shanghai in 1905 at age 27 in order to establish an independence movement base. At 29, Ahn participated in the 1907 National Debt Repayment Movement; Ahn established a tripartite committee (with Han Jae-ho and Song Byeong-un) to promote the mine business.

In 1909, Ahn, 31, formed Dongui-danji-hoe (An Alliance of Cutting off Fingers) with 11 members including Kim Gi-ryong. In 1909, Ahn fatally shot Ito three times on the railway platform at Harbin Railway Station when Ito was heading toward the welcoming crowd after inspecting the Russian honor guard. After Russian guards arrested him on the spot, Ahn shouted in Russian, "Корея! Ура!” three times. Ahn wrote his autobiography “The Story of Ahn Eung-chil (Ahn's childhood name)” in prison. In 1910, Ahn, 32, was sentenced to death. He wrote Oriental Peace Theory. He was executed at Lushun Prison.

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