In central Seoul, there is a small museum dedicated to An Jung-geun, a Korean nationalist who assassinated the Prime Minister of Japan (Ito Hirobumi) in 1909. While he is considered a hero by many in both Koreas, understandably, he is still a controversial figure in Japan. An was arrested and executed by the Japanese authorities, but not before he could finish writing an essay on pan-Asianism.
While I can understand, and even recognize the importance of An’s act of violence in helping end Japanese colonialism in Korea, the way he is now becoming a pop icon in Korea is troubling. Here is a photo from a recent soccer match against Japan where fans displayed a banner of An.
So why has An experienced this recent resurgence in popularity? Something tells me the damaged ego and worthless nationalist narratives taught in school and pushed through all media outlets have a lot to do with it. It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with Japanese imperialism, which has been dead in Korea since WW2.
And heck, now Korean youth have there very own Che-like emblem to brandish about rather than using critical thought.
During the week before Buddha’s birthday (May 12th), Korean Buddhists celebrate with the Lotus Lantern Festival. I dropped by Jogyesa, the chief temple of the Jogye order. According to the Jogyesa branch of Buddhism, the lotus flower“grows spotlessly and fragrantly out of the mud into the world of light symbolizing Boddhisatva in Buddhism. The Lotus Lantern is very characteristic of Korea."
Born of parents both recently and distantly American, I was once an activist and advocate for the socialist left. Nowadays, I am a defender of the "Responsibility to Protect" who stands for universal rights and liberty.
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