Koreans celebrate memories of Ahn Jung-geun

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Koreans celebrate memories of Ahn Jung-geun

President Lee Myung-bak vowed yesterday to make every effort to locate in China the remains of revered independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun, who was executed by the Japanese in 1910, and bring them back to Korea.

“Today marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Ahn and let us sincerely honor his noble spirit,” Lee said in a meeting with his secretaries at the Blue House, according to presidential spokesman Park Sun-kyoo. “As president,” Lee said, “I will seek every possible way to bring Ahn’s remains back here in close cooperation with Japan and China.”

Park also quoted Lee as saying that Ahn was a patriot who sacrificed his life for the sake of his country and its people and that he was a pioneer who advocated bringing peace and reconciliation to East Asia and the world.

Lee was regretful that Ahn’s desire that his remains be brought back to Korean soil once the country won independence from Japan has not been fulfilled.

A commemoration ceremony, organized by Pray for World Peace, a group based on Ahn’s vision for peace in the Asian region, was held yesterday at Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall. Some 2,000 participants, including Prime Minister Chung Un-chan, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young and Minister of Patriots’ and Veterans’ Affairs Kim Yang, attended the event. The ceremony offered flowers to Ahn’s soul and sketched his biography.

“It is pity that we have not yet found the remains,” said Chung. “We will do our utmost to bring his body back as we are about to organize a joint working-level team of government officials and civilian experts aimed at discovering the remains with the support of Japan and China.”

Chung also said more efforts have to be made to live up to the spirit of other patriots who gave their lives for the country.

At the end of the ceremony, the prime minister ignited a torch and all the participants marched from City Hall up to the Gwanghwamun Plaza.

A Korean national flag led the march, closely followed by 13 people carrying torches. A traditional Korean folk music band, groups of people holding memorial flags and a military band also participated in the parade.

At the same time in Hyochang Park in Yongsan, central Seoul, where the Ahn family shrine is located, a Seoul-based commemorative association held a separate memorial service to pay respects to the freedom fighter.

Ten high schools in Seoul, including Paiwha Girls’ High School, organized events to honor Ahn, such as hand printing, reading his writings and writing letters in his memory.

At Cheonggye Plaza in Seoul was an exhibition of 25 photos depicting Ahn’s history, including pictures of the gun and bullets Ahn used to assassinate the first resident-general of Korea, Hirobumi Ito. Also shown were pictures of the prison where Ahn was executed.

A memorial mass was held at Myeongdong Cathedral in central Seoul at 6 p.m. Ahn was baptized in 1897 as “Thomas” at the age of 19.

Five ruling and opposition party lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee opened a separate memorial ceremony for Ahn at Luishun prison in the port city of Dalian, northeast China, where he was executed.

It was the first ceremony to be held by Korean visitors with the authorization of the Chinese government.

The Grand National Party placed a large portrait of Ahn and placard saying “I am the son of the Republic of Korea” in Korean outside the party’s headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul.

Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun said during the party’s Supreme Council meeting that Ahn’s passion for independence must be respected and honored.

By Ser Myo-ja, Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]

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