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Memorial held to commemorate passing of Japanese forest engineer

All News 16:54 April 05, 2016

SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- A score of South Koreans gathered at a cemetery in Seoul on Tuesday, also Arbor Day, to hold a memorial commemorating the 85th anniversary of the passing of Japanese forest engineer Takumi Asakawa.

The people at the event, organized by a civil aid group called the Seoul International Friendship Organization, bowed their heads in prayer in front of his grave to pay tribute to the Japanese man who had devoted himself to the reforestation of Korea in the early period of the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.

He worked at a forestry research center affiliated with the Japanese Government-General of Korea, developing advanced techniques to cultivate young trees that helped the peninsula to regain its forests following Japan's relentless seizure of logs from what was then its colony.

Hailing from Hokuto, Japan's Yamanashi Prefecture, Asakawa also devoted great efforts in cooperation with his older brother Noritaka, who came to Korea one year earlier than him, to preserve and promote Korean culture and art. Asakawa's affection toward Korean art pieces, including Korean ceramics, led to his contribution to the foundation of the National Folk Museum of Korea.

He died at the age of 40 in 1931 and was buried here in accordance with his wishes.

Among those attending Tuesday's event was Masakazu Oshiba, vice mayor of Asakawa's hometown of Hokuto. Oshiba said in his eulogy, "I was very impressed last year when a Korean news organization chose Mr. Asakawa as one of the 100 foreigners who had contributed to the development of Korea," expressing his thanks to South Korea for remembering Asakawa.

Chung Jong-bae, a poet, said the achievements of Asakawa have been ignored by right-wing activists in Japan and fallen out of the spotlight in South Korea because he was Japanese. "I am happy that calls for his achievements and thoughts have risen," Chung said.

A high school student who took part in the memorial, Choi Rak-chun, wished he himself to make efforts to help South Korea and Japan coexist peacefully based on Asakawa's past achievements in Korea.


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