[Bronze Prize] Ahn Jung-geun, the Pioneer of Pan-Asianism
Hirobumi Ito, assassinated by Ahn Jung-geun in 1909, was the first Japanese Resident General of Korea who led the Japanese annexation of Korea. He also invaded neighboring Asian countries, infringed upon their diplomatic sovereignty, and colonized them under his motto of "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (大東亞共榮圈)." Hirobumi Ito's proposals, in short, were in contrast with Ahn Jung-geun's Pan-Asianism, which upheld East Asian nations' harmonious prosperity.
Some say Ito took a mild stance on the issue of Korean annexation, but Ito's 1905 audience with Korean Emperor Gojong undermines this hastily-made evaluation: when he was presented to Emperor Gojong, Ito tried to threaten the Emperor by saying "Signing this treaty [Eulsa Treaty] depends on your will, but if you refuse to do so, your nation will be in a greater peril than it is in now."
After this forceful signing of the treaty, Ito became the first Japanese Resident General of Korea on December, 1905. He ruled Korea with violence: he established a notorious police system, he reorganized Korean loyal cabinet to take over Korea's trade and military system, and he suppressed Koreans dissidents with inhumane tortures. Thus, 1909 assassination of Hirobumi Ito was Ahn Jung-geun's fight for the realization of the harmonious Pan-Asianism.
Ahn's assassination of Hirobumi Ito influenced lots of East Asians of the early 1990s. First of all, Koreans were stimulated by Ahn's patriotism. American writer Nym Wales wrote in his 1973 Song of Ariran that "Many young Korean activists in Manchuria, China, would gather in a school dormitary, talking about Ahn Jung-geun who shot Hirobumi Ito and other brave Koreans who died for Korean independence."
In China's Manchuria and Shanghai, Ahn's patriotism inspired numerous peaceful and armed independence movements led by young Korean activists. Also on the Korean peninsula, Korean citizens were influenced by Ahn's idea that Enlightenment was a basis for the independence of Korea. Ahn's hope to influence Koreans in and out of the peninsula is best summarized by his writing in 1910: "Although I have been through many difficulties for three years to restore the independence of Korea and to make peace in Asia, I couldn't achieve my goal and die today.
If the twenty million brothers and sisters of my country work on education, agriculture, manufacturing, and business to bring Korea's freedom and independence back, I will not have any sorrow of death anymore. When I die, please bury my body near the Harbin Park and move it to my country when it restores its independence. I will work for Korea's freedom even when I go to the heaven. Brothers and sisters, work together to achieve the grand goal of our nation.
When the people's celebration for Korea's independence is heard on the heaven, I will dance and sing the song of happiness." Even today, "A willingness to die for his nation is an obligation of a man (爲國獻身軍人本分)," a calligraphy that Ahn gave to a Japanese prison guard who revered him, became Korean Land force's motto that commemorates Ahn's patriotism.
Ahn also influenced Chinese politicians and anti-Imperialists. Lu Xun, a prominent Chinese writer of the 1900s, wrote, "Four hundred million Chinese should die of humiliation" when he got the news of Ahn's assassination deed; in 1927, Zhang Xueliang, an effective ruler of Manchuria in the 1930s, ordered 36 elementary schools to sing the song that commemorated Ahn before every class; Zhou Enlai, a anti-Japanese activist who later became the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, played out Ahn Jung-geun in Wuhan and Changsha Province to instigate anti-Japanese spirits; and finally, Luo Nanshan, a Chinese elite in the 1900s, wrote that Ahn's assassination of Ito inspired Wuchang Rebellion in 1911, which directly influenced the start of Xinhai Revolution in China.
Ahn's influence even reached Japan. Ito's death empowered his archenemy Yamagata Aritomo, a militant Imperialist. Aritomo soon dominated the Japanese cabinet and strongly advocated China invasion and even the Pacific War, which eventually led the Japanese Imperialism's demise.
Ahn envisioned harmonious East Asia: he suggested the foundation of East Asian Peace Union in Lushun, China. He planned out the setting of a "peace zone," a joint development bank, and a common currency use among Korea, Japan, and China - a Union that proceeds today's European Union for a hundred years. If the foundation of Peace Union that Ahn dreamed of can be realized in the future, it would be another significant influence of Ahn in the East Asian history.