Tokyo riles Seoul with insult to Ahn

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Tokyo riles Seoul with insult to Ahn

Relations with Japan spiraled lower this week after Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary referred to a famed Korean independence activist from the early 1900s as a “criminal,” and lawmakers told the Japanese to reflect on their own criminal activities in the last century.

“The Japanese government should apologize for invading, colonizing and committing crimes against humanity in the first place,” said the ruling Saenuri Party’s floor spokeswoman Kang Eun-hee in a briefing yesterday. “Japan should bear in mind that without some scathing self-reflection about its own history, it will not take a single step forward.”

The row was ignited Monday when President Park Geun-hye met with visiting Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi after both confirmed a plan to jointly establish a monument to Ahn Jung-geun, an independence activist who assassinated the Japanese resident-general of Korea in 1909. Ahn fatally shot Ito Hirobumi in Harbin, northeastern China, to protest Japan’s colonial designs over the Korean Peninsula. He was hanged the next year when Korea became a formal Japanese colony.

On Tuesday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga criticized Korea and China’s plan for the monument.

“This is not good for Japan-Korea relations,” Suga said. “Japan has been maintaining the stance that Ahn Jung-geun is a criminal.”

As a reaction, politicians across the party divide pilloried Suga and Japan.

“Ahn did not put a gun to the heart of a single figure but against Japan’s militarism aiming to invade not only Korea and China but all of Asia,” said Representative Rhee In-je of the Saenuri Party. “Japan’s militarism has committed a colossal crime against human beings and that corresponds to the world’s assessment. Ahn is a great hero who protested against it.”

The opposition Democratic Party also took the opportunity to put some blame on the Korean government.

“It is very worrisome that the Japanese government calls Ahn a criminal and is scrambling to rise up with arms again, and the Korean government is practically neglecting the situation,” said Park Yong-jin, a spokesman for the party. He urged the government to come up with “more detailed efforts” to deter Japan’s provocative statements and actions.

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