HARBIN, China--Despite protests from Tokyo, China on Jan. 19 opened a memorial hall here for a Korean independence activist who assassinated Japan’s first prime minister more than a century ago.
The memorial for An Jung-geun was set up in the VIP lounge at Harbin railway station in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. A bust of An, his biography and many other items are on display in the 100-square-meter room, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency and other insiders.
A platform at the station contains a plate bearing the date Oct. 26, 1909, the day An killed former Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi at the site. Ito had served as first resident general in the protectorate of Korea, a Japanese colony between 1910 and 1945.
The Harbin city government and the national railway authority jointly contributed money for the memorial, according to Xinhua and other sources.
The opening came less than a month after Japan’s relations with both China and South Korea soured when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
China had already been at odds with Japan over sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, while South Korea was criticizing Japan about perceptions of history, particularly events before and during World War II.
The memorial could lead to a further deterioration in relations.
“The Republic of Korea welcomes and highly appreciates the opening of the memorial hall,” South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement released on Jan. 19.
Harbin city already had a museum featuring An’s statue and related documents, in addition to a park where a stone monument of the activist has been erected. But no objects commemorating the assassination had existed at Harbin station.
Last June, South Korean President Park Geun-hye called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to erect a monument at the station to An, who is considered a national hero in South Korea.
With the memorial hall, the Chinese government did more than was requested by its neighbor.
At the opening ceremony on Jan. 19, the Heilongjiang provincial vice governor voiced admiration for An: “People have respected An for more than a century.”
Park in November expressed her gratitude to Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, who was visiting South Korea, for Beijing’s cooperation to build the memorial.
Immediately following their meeting, Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, criticized Seoul and labeled An a criminal.
China’s move of setting up an exhibition room for An is apparently aimed at showing off its close relationship with South Korea while putting pressure on the Abe administration.
(This article was written by Koichiro Ishida in Shenyang and Akira Nakano in Seoul.)
JAPAN PROTESTS CHINA, SOUTH KOREA
Junichi Ihara, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, on Jan. 19 called both Chinese and South Korean senior diplomats to Japan to protest the opening of the new exhibition room.
The following day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga harshly criticized the two nations.
“It is extremely disappointing and regrettable,” Suga said at a Jan. 20 news conference. “(An) is a terrorist who was sentenced to death. The collaboration between South Korea and China will not contribute to building regional peace and cooperative relations.”
- « Prev
- Next »