The late independence fighter
By Jung Sung-ki
Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Kim Yang called on Japan Monday to cooperate on efforts to recover the remains of Ahn Jung-geun, the Korean independence fighter who assassinated Japan's first resident general, Hirobumi Ito, in 1909 in retaliation for Japan's annexation of Korea.
"Now is the time to change direction in recovering Ahn's remains," Kim Yang said in a news conference in Seoul. "We urge Japan to approach this issue in a sincere manner."
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Ahn (1877-1910), who assassinated Ito in Harbin, northeastern China, in October 1909.
The assassination was a watershed moment in Japan's colonial rule of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Ahn was executed at a Japanese prison in China on March 26, 1910.
Kim said the South Korean government had focused on recovering the remains of Ahn in China but will now make efforts to gather information on Ahn's records and remains from Japan.
"The remains of Ahn have been unable to make it back home for the last 100 years," he said. "Our attempts were discouraged several times by Japan's lackluster response."
South Korea launched a 29-day mission to China in 2008 to locate and bring back Ahn's remains. The effort was unsuccessful, as the Japanese government remains largely uncooperative and secretive about where the independence fighter was buried.
Kim said that "We believe Japan has decisive records that will make a difference in finding the remains of martyr Ahn."
In order to open up a new century between Korea and Japan, the Tokyo government must give some earnest answers, said the minister.
"We do not want to bequeath our painful history to our children," he said.
Kim, a grandson of the late independence movement leader and nationalist Kim Koo, has been one of the most outspoken critics of President Lee Myung-bak's policy that Seoul should not seek an apology from Japan over its forced annexation for the sake of practical and future-oriented ties.
In January, Kim bluntly opposed President Lee's purported plan to invite Japanese Emperor Akihito to Seoul this year, saying the resolution of pending historical issues between the two nations should come ahead of such a trip.
The Japanese government did offer apologies for some of the crimes committed during its colonial rule, though incidents, including former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine venerating war criminals and Japan's ongoing territorial claim over the Dokdo Islets, have continued to fuel anger here.
"The Russian government has promised to provide us with the records we need to track Ahn's life in Harbin. We are hoping to receive such answers from Japan, also," he said.
Harbin is located just south of China's border with Russia.