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Seoul uncovers Russian newspaper stories on burial site of independence fighter

Politics 16:23 May 28, 2019

SEOUL, May 28 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean government agency said Tuesday it has uncovered Russian newspaper articles on the burial site of revered Korean independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun, possibly providing a new clue to the whereabouts of his long-lost remains.

The National Archives of Korea (NAK) disclosed 24 Russian newspaper stories, which were published in the Russian Far East between Oct. 27, 1909, and April 21, 1910, and included coverage of Ahn's assassination of a top Japanese colonial official in China on Oct. 26, 1909, related court trials, execution of his death sentence and his funeral process.

One of the stories, dated April 21, 1910, said that after Ahn was executed, his remains were sent to a small chapel before being buried at a Christian grave in the region.

This photo, provided by the National Archives of Korea, shows Russian newspaper articles covering Korean independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun's heroism. (Yonhap)

This photo, provided by the National Archives of Korea, shows Russian newspaper articles covering Korean independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun's heroism. (Yonhap)

Ahn, who shot the Korean Peninsula's first Japanese governor-general, Hirobumi Ito, at a railway station in Harbin, the capital of China's northeastern province of Heilongjiang, is highly respected by Koreans as a national hero.

He was executed at a Japanese prison in the northern Chinese district of Ryojun, now called Lushun, in Dalian on March 26, 1910, and presumably buried in the vicinity of the prison.

South Korea's government has tried to locate Ahn's burial site and recover his remains over the past decade but with little success.

Officials at the NAK said they ran into the old Russian newspaper articles covering Ahn's heroism while searching for records of Korean independence fighters in the Russian Far East.

"At that time, Japan's Asahi Shimbun reported Ahn was buried at a prison grave, displaying differences from the Russian report. There should be an additional investigation," an NAK official said.

Prior to his execution, Ahn left a will to his two brothers saying, "I wish for my bones to be buried near the Harbin Park after I die and then will be re-entombed in my native country after Korea recovers its sovereignty. I will also make every effort for the independence of Korea even after I go to heaven."

At that time, Ahn's family demanded his remains be returned to Korea but Japan refused and kept his burial site a secret.

Historians say Japan's refusal to hand over Ahn's remains to his family was illegal and highly objectionable from a humanitarian perspective.

Seoul's Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs said in January that it will push for joint excavation work to find Ahn's remains together with North Korea and China.

President Moon Jae-in made a similar pledge during his meeting with surviving independence fighters and their families at Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential office, in August last year.

ycm@yna.co.kr
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