Ahn Jung-geun was a great thinker

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Ahn Jung-geun was a great thinker

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I recently met the Venerable Park Sam-jung at Bodeok Temple in Manri-dong, Seoul. He has been working to save and reform death-row inmates for more than 40 years and is involved in a memorial project for Ahn Jung-geun. He said that he was furious when a Japanese cabinet minister called Ahn a “terrorist” and presented materials about who Ahn really was.

One of those pieces was a postcard of Ahn immediately after he assassinated Hirobumi Ito, then the prime minister of Japan and resident general of Korea, at Harbin Station, China, on Oct. 26, 1909. Ahn’s left hand was shown missing the last joint of his ring finger. Below the photograph was a caption in Japanese reading, “Ahn Jung-geun, who assassinated Ito. Koreans have an old tradition of cutting off the ring finger as a pledge for an assassination.”

The postcard sold quickly, and Japanese authorities banned its printing out of fear that Ahn would become a hero. Ahn was admired among the Koreans, Chinese and even some Japanese for boldly carrying out the assassination and for proudly being captured for the grand causes of liberating Korea and establishing peace in Asia.

The Venerable Park explained that Ahn wrote 57 calligraphy works while in prison and could only give out his writings because those around him had great respect for him.

Ahn also left a writing titled “Independence” during his imprisonment. In February 1910, he gave it to Masao Shitara, a guard at Lushun Prison. He brought it back to Japan and admired Ahn for the rest of his life, and the calligraphy was bequeathed to his nephew, Masazumi Shitara.

A few years ago, Park met with Shitara, now the head monk at Gansenji Temple in Hiroshima, Japan, and offered to buy it or exchange it for a Korean calligraphy work that he may want. But Shitara turned it down, saying, “Ahn wished for my uncle to let the Japanese know that the purpose of the assassination was for the independence of Korea, and therefore the calligraphy should stay in Japan.”

For Seishiro Yasuoka, a prosecutor at the Lushun court that interrogated him, Ahn wrote, “Worrying and Caring for the Peace and Security of the Nation” in March 1910.

For Toshichi Chiba, a military police officer who guarded him, Ahn presented the piece, “Devoting Oneself for the Nation is the Duty of a Soldier.” While he had shot the invader of the homeland, he wrote words of encouragement for the official and soldier working for their country. He is truly a great thinker who advocated the philosophy of peace in East Asia.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By CHAE IN-TAEK


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