[FOUNTAIN]A way to mark history for Korea, RussiaOn the banks of the Suifen River in Ussuriisk, Russia stands a monument to Lee Sang-seol, an independence leader in the late Joseon period. Ahn Jung-gun’s monument commemorating the organizing of a patriotic group is in Kraskino, and the monument to Lee Beom-jin, the Korean Empire’s first ambassador to Russia, is in St. Petersburg. In Vladivostok, there is a monument to the independence movement against imperial Japan.
Since Seoul established diplomatic ties with the former Soviet Union in 1990, the monuments have been created based on the efforts of the government, intellectuals and ordinary citizens.
But what really made the project possible was the efforts of those who searched for and retrieved documents from the state archives of the Soviet Union and other facilities even before Seoul and Moscow established diplomatic relations in order to trace the work of the independence movement fighters. Even when the historical information and relics were recovered, the project to erect monuments made slow progress because of the lukewarm attitude of the former Soviet government, the succeeding Russian government and the local residents.
Some Russians were not happy with the Korean nationalistic spirit rising in their country and others were conscious of North Korea and other neighbors, such as Japan and China. But South Korea’s comprehensive endeavor persuaded the Russian government, intellectuals and citizens to help erect the memorial monuments, and Russia donated the land on which these monuments and tombs now stand.
The missile cruiser Varyag of Russia’s Pacific Fleet anchored in the port of Incheon for the military exchange program between Russia and Korea on Tuesday. The Russian Navy held a flower dedication ceremony in remembrance of the sailors who died during the Russo-Japanese War. People were emotional as a monument was unveiled a century after the sinking of the Russian vessels.
Both Koreans and Russians had learned about the historic moments at school and honored the ancestors as the symbols of patriotism. Finally, citizens of the two countries can visit each other to remember the lessons of history by building humble monuments. The memories of the Cold War are slowly fading and the wounds of imperialism are gradually healing in Northeast Asia.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.