Whereabouts of Ahn film elusive

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Whereabouts of Ahn film elusive

On Dec. 18, 1909, an article in Variety, an entertainment magazine in the United States, boasted some sensational news.

A special role of film containing the exact moment when Korean independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun assassinated Japanese Resident General Hirobumi Ito on Oct. 26, 1909, was up for sale.

“A photography company in St. Petersburg, Russia, is seeking a buyer for a special film it has been able to take,” the article states. “It is a moving picture supposed to have been taken at the time the Corean [Korean] murdered the Marquis Ito, the Japanese minister.”

The article adds that the asking price is 150,000 rubles, estimated to be about 1.5 billion won ($1.4 million) by today’s standards.

The 15-sentence news story, written and sent from Paris to the magazine’s desk in the United States, implies that the film was discovered in France, the center of the world’s film industry at the time.

So far, historians in Korea have anticipated that, somewhere in the world, a video clip - made from a sequence of images from two film rolls - remains, showing what is considered to be one of the most honorable moments in Korean history: when celebrated independence fighter Ahn fatally shot Ito at Harbin Station, China, in protest of Japan’s colonial designs over the Korean Peninsula.

“As the article was sent from Paris [to the desk in the United States], we could expect the alleged film is somewhere in Europe now,” said Shin Woon-yong, a key South Korean researcher at the Ahn Jung Geun Peace Center.

Researchers have assumed that Japan could also possess the alleged film.

“In 1995, a documentary produced by the NHK briefly showed the assassination in Harbin, China, which was an edited version of an old documentary produced in Japan in the 1940s titled ‘A History of Japanese News and Films,’” Shin said.

However, the NHK documentary did not include a scene of the shooting, Shin added.

Claims about the film showing Ito’s assassination were also reported by the Straits Times, an English-language newspaper based in Singapore.

On the publication’s third page on Dec. 22, 1909, an article titled “A cinematograph record: Price of the Film of Prince Ito’s Assassination” asserts that the film containing the moment of Ito’s assassination was sold to a Japanese man.

“It will be remembered that it was recently reported that a Russian, who was at Harbin Station to take a cinematograph film of the meeting of the late Prince Ito and M. Kokozoff [Vladimir Kokovtsov], the Russian financial minister, secured a picture of the assassination,” it states. “Many persons of various nationalities have since endeavored to acquire the film, but it is now stated that it was purchased by Mr. Tanomagi, of the Japan Press Agency, Tokio [sic], for yen 15,000.”

Tanomagi may refer to Tanomogi Keiichi, who was a nine-time lawmaker in Japan at the time, Shin said.

“Although Tanomogi allegedly obtained the original film, there is the possibility that a number of copies have been sold,” Shin added.

BY JEON YOUNG-SUN, KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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