Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga—who, as we’ve seen before, is a bit of a sensitive sort—is upset that Korea wants to build a monument to Ahn Jung-geun in China:
“This is not good for Japan-South Korea relations,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said of the proposed monument to Ahn Jung-geun, a Korean independence activist who shot Hirobumi Ito, the first Japanese governor general of Korea, in 1909 in Harbin, northeastern China.
He said Ahn, regarded as a hero in South Korea and China, “is a criminal.”
The plan was revealed when South Korean President Park Geun-hye met Monday with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi in Seoul. Park expressed appreciation for China’s cooperation with the plan, according to the South Korean presidential office. Details of the plan are not yet known.
Considering that Japan considered pretty much everyone who engaged in the Korean independence movement criminals, this would seem to suggest he believes establishing monuments to any Korean nationalist leaders would be bad for Korea—Japan relations.
Well, anyway, Korea and China have told Japan to sod off:
Both Beijing and Seoul fired back almost immediately.
“Ahn Jung-geun is a very famous anti-Japanese fighter in history,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing. “He is respected by the Chinese people as well. China will, in accordance with relevant regulations on memorial facilities involving foreigners, make a study to push forward relevant work.”
South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tae-young said Japan should “reflect on what kind of figure Hirobumi Ito was during Japan’s era of imperialism and militarism and what Japan did to neighbouring nations at the time”.
Expect more of this cooperation between Korea and China in the future. I’m not especially comfortable with it, and ideally, I’d like to see greater cooperation between Korea and Japan. That said, Japan doesn’t make it easy sometimes. I’m not sure what Suga hoped to gain for Japan with his statement—scoring points with some domestic lobbies, perhaps?—but as an act of diplomacy, all it does is give propaganda material to Korea and China and drive Seoul closer to Beijing at a time when Tokyo really should be working to gain an ally.
For what it’s worth, Ahn Jung-geun was a really intriguing character. And probably a more complex dude than most folk realize.