Century-old film reels show 1909 Ito assassinationTwo pieces of camera footage relaying the scene in which Korean independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun assassinated Ito Hirobumi, the Japanese resident general of Korea in 1909, was brought to the United States, according to an article from The New York Times a century ago that was rediscovered by Korean media yesterday.
The New York Times article, from Aug. 14, 1910, headlined, “Unusual snapshots taken at thrilling moments,” describes a coincidental occurrence in which a European cameraman captured the exact moment when Ahn fatally shot Ito in protest of Japan’s colonial designs over the Korean Peninsula, and the chaos that ensued.
A black-and-white illustration of Ahn’s assassination of Ito at Harbin Station, China, on Oct. 26, 1909, with a caption that describes, “The assassination of Marquis Ito in Korea was recorded by a moving picture camera,” also accompanied the article.
At that time, Ito, a four-time Japanese prime minister, had been set to meet the Russian minister of finance, and a European film manufacturer sent a photographer to capture the scene, The New York Times wrote.
“The rapidly moving film within the camera recorded the movements of Prince Ito and his party as they alighted from the train and crossed the platform to meet Minister Kokovsoff amid an animated welcome. Then the unexpected happened.
“A Korean advanced from the crowd, fired three bullets from an upraised revolver, fatally wounded Prince Ito and injured three others in his party. The moving picture machine continued to clicker, recording all these details and those of the panic that followed.”
After the film was developed, a moving picture resulted, which was popular to an American audience.
Consequently, The New York Times said, “Two of the films of the assassination of Prince Ito were brought to America but were not shown very widely.”
The New York Times also said the films were shown at Ahn’s trial and then confiscated by the Japanese government.
The whereabouts of the full film footage is still unknown, Shin Woon-yong, key researcher at Ahn Jung Geun Peace Center, told the Korea JoongAng Daily by phone yesterday.
Korean broadcaster KBS in 2009, and NHK in 1995, acquired short, edited clips of the scenes of the events of the day, though not the moment of the assassination.
In 1910, Korean and Japanese newspapers are known to have purchased the footage from a Japanese man who filmed the assassination scene in Harbin.
“But KBS and NHK does not have the specific footage in question,” Shin said. “So it is not clear where the original films are located. Unless there were copies of the original, it is not clear if we will be able to locate the films in the U.S.”
“It will be amazing if we do find the footage, and very significant to us,” Shin added. “The Korean government should step up to locate the footage.”
He also pointed out that there were inaccuracies in The New York Times article and the illustration.
“It doesn’t make sense that Ahn went in wearing a kimono. .?.?.?The picture was drawn with creative liberalities.”
He added that it also didn’t make sense that the two pieces of camera footage were used for Ahn’s trial.
Ahn was executed by the Japanese on March 26, 1910, at the age of 30, and his body has never been recovered to this day.
In January, China opened a memorial to honor Ahn in Harbin, which Tokyo protested.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called Ahn a “terrorist” in response to the opening of the memorial.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]