[Bronze Prize] What is Ahn Jung-Geuns Place in East Asias History ?
By Hwang Young Youp
About the time I finished writing this essay today, I see the two big headlines posted in most of Korean daily newspapers : a) Korea will host a Group of 20 Summit in November, 2010 according to a decision reached at the third G20 meeting held in Pittsburgh. b) An special event for Animation "Winter Sonata" was attended by the two Korean movie stars, Bae Yong-joon and Choi Ji-woo and their appearance on the stage of Tokyo Dome overwhelmed about 50,000 Japanese fans.
The first news is impressive because Korea has been put into a position to play a very important role of bridging differences between the advanced nations and the emerging economies. The second news is also noteworthy because the Korean fever (wave) or hallyu as a product of Korean culture and globalization has not yet cooled down.
Paradoxically, however, I quite often have mixed feelings about Japan when I happen to know more about the dark side of our national history which had left many wounds caused by the Japanese brutal militarism and imperialism. I admire Japanese cultural heritages and traditional virtues, many of which are shared by us. I also have to live in such a time when a lot of cultural and economic interactions between the two countries continue to take place every day.
Personally I belong to a senior generation and my school days did not permit enough time for me to learn about the modern history of my country. For me, Ahn Jung-geun has long been portrayed as a great patriot as well as an independent fighter who assassinated Hirobumi Ito, the mastermind of the annexation of Korea. By taking the opportunity for preparing for this particular essay to honor the 100th anniversary of An Jung-geun's sacrifice for the nation, I am very pleased that I have learned many new things about our national hero, Ahn Jung-geun including many painful parts of our turbulent national history and Japanese military imperialism.
History must be learned and taught correctly
Since the end of the war, Japanese leaders have offered a series of apologies acknowledging Japanese responsibility for their brutal colony and war. But the bitterness remains under the surface. Why? That is mainly because of lack of Japan's honesty on the war crimes accusations like comfort women, unrepentant views of the war, distorted textbooks about their past and etc. These issues have kept severing Japan's relations with Korea and China.
We cannot escape from history. History must be learned and taught correctly. History itself tells about it more and more clearly as time goes by. The historians always strive to identify the roots and contexts of historical event, real or perceived.
Now President of Japan, Yukio Hatoyama explained his historical perception during talks with President Lee Myung-bak in last June. He said,``There is a trend to glorify colonial occupations in Japan. Japan could become a more advanced nation by willingly offering its apology about the past and it is necessary for Japanese political leaders to have such courage." It was a very positive comment.
I sincerely hope that Japan will also learn more lessons from Germany where the Holocaust and Nazism are taught openly even for young children in their schools.
``Pan-Asianism'' suggested by Ahn Jung-geun
An Jung-geun already had a foresight 100 years ago. He believed in a union of the three great countries in East Asia, namely, China, Japan and Korea. He proposed that the three countries build a framework to maintain peace in Asia and also suggested a joint development bank. ``Peace'' doesn't mean a simple absence of war. Today, its meaning is different in China, Japan and Korea because of different national and geopolitical interests and contexts surrounding each country. For example, the ``peace'' talked about in South Korea has much to do with ``security'' and stability on the peninsular because of the tension caused by the North Korea. North Korean nuclear threat is the biggest potential threat not only to South Korea but also to the stability of East Asia. Therefore, As An Jung-geun suggested one hundred years ago, Japan and China should work harder to create a new vision for ``peace'' and ``stability'' in East Asia in close cooperation with the two Koreas.
Korea, Japan and China have to strengthen multilateral ties on faith and trust.
Although continuous research and clarification on the past history should not be stopped for the better future, bilateral or multilateral ties between the three countries should be materialized for mutual benefits. There are many enemies to ``peace'' : poverty, corruption, blind nationalism or inflated sense of superiority, environmental destruction, and etc. The U.N secretary-general Ban Ki-moon already suggested the necessity of multilateral cooperation between the Asian nations. Korea, Japan and China should play major roles and work more closely by using their resources, positive traditional virtues and spirits which came from same cultural backgrounds.
Let us try to create new Asian waves. Let us work together on the principles of faith and trust for "peace'' and ``prosperity'' not only for East Asia but also for the world.