The unveilling of a memorial to the Korean freedom fighter Ahn Jung-geun, at the railway station in China's northeast city of Harbin on Sunday, commemorates his bravery against Japanese aggression and reminds people not to forget the past.
Ahn shot dead Hirobumi Ito, the de facto ruler of Korea, at Harbin railway station on October 26, 1909. Ito served as the prime minister of Japan four times before becoming resident-general of Korea in 1905, after Japan forced the Korean Empire to sign a protectorate treaty. Ahn said during his trial that he killed Ito for the independence of his motherland and peace in the Orient. He was hanged by Japanese forces in March 1910.
Unfortunately, Ahn did not stop Japan’s ambitious aggression. In the decades leading up to 1945, Japanese forces wreaked brutal havoc on the Korean Peninsula, in China and in other Asian countries.
Ahn’s memorial is not meant to inflict pain, but instead is intended to shed light on the history of northeastern Asia. It does not seek to rekindle the hatred of the past, rather it stands as a remembrance of brutal Japanese colonisation and the Chinese and Korean suffering that came with it.
Japan has branded Ahn a terrorist. But to Chinese people, he is renowned and respected as a fighter against Japanese aggression. The construction of the memorial is justified and reasonable.
The current Japanese leadership has not reflected on the actions of its predecessors. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine last month infuriated and saddened both China and South Korea.
Abe’s attempts to amend Japan’s post-war pacifist Constitution and strengthen his nation’s military might reveal no remorse for Japan’s past and pose a threat to peace and stability. His attitude toward history has been condemned worldwide.
History is the teacher of life. Alarm bells shall not go unheeded. With Japan treading a dangerous path once again, the need for vigilance and joint international efforts is clear if we are to prevent a Japanese militarist resurgence.