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The Ahn Jung Geun Effect, GyeongSeong Creature Episode 2

**Spoilers ahead

The main protagonist of GyeongSeong Creature, Yoon, Chae Ok, meets a man in the library of a hospital and asks who he is. The man puts his left hand to his chest with his ring finger folded down. Initially, I thought he was Ahn Jung Geun, but then realized that by 1945, Ahn had already been executed. Instead this may be a general reference to the Righteous Armies that fought against Japanese imperialism.

Activist, Ahn Jung Geun, and 11 comrades who plotted to assassinate the representative of Japan in Korea, Resident General Ito Hirobumi cut off the tip of their finger as a pledge to their to defend Korea, following a tradition observed by previous figures in Korean history. When Ahn created calligraphic banners to uplift his fellow patriots, he incorporated his handprint bearing the shortened finger as part of his signature, using it to instill others with his unshakeable conviction.

In 1909, when Ahn Jung Geun learned of Ito's intention to meet the Russian Minister of Finance and inspect Russian troops in Harbin, Manchuria, he decided to take action. At that time, Japan was steadily expanding its influence over vast territories in China and Manchuria. However, Harbin remained under Russian control, offering a potential sanctuary from Japanese authorities.

In a daring move, Ahn Jung Geun posed as a member of the press corps and patiently awaited Ito's arrival at the Harbin railway platform on October 26, 1909. When Ito finally appeared, Ahn fired three shots, inflicting fatal wounds and ultimately taking his life.

While Ahn's shooting of Ito Hirobumi did not produce an immediate shift for the independence of Korea, his patriotic act became a wellspring of inspiration for loyalists and independence fighters throughout the Japanese occupation.

To view him as anti-Japan is to overly simply his life and vision. In his essay, Peace in East Asia, Ahn wrote about the importance of binding the East Asian Countries, namely Korea, China and Japan. He praises Japan for its victory over Russia in the Russo Japan War. Ahn argued that because of the help from China and Korea, Japan was able to be victorious. Of course, he also denounced Japan for betraying Korea, exploiting the people and its resources. Ahn was afraid that if the bond between the East Asian countries weakened, the Western countries would take over. This idea of Pan Asianism was not unique to him. Others believed that that Asian countries shared culture, geography and racial similarities and that Asia should be protected against the West.

To our 21st century view, this sounds xenophobic but we should remember in the early 20th century, the countries that were pillaging countries with colonialism were from the West. To add to the complexity of Ahn, in his last letters before he was executed, he wrote to Bishop Mutel and Father Wilhelm, men from the west, stating he hopes that Korea would become a Catholic country.

Ahn also wrote a letter to his family saying “I wish for my bones to be buried near the Harbin Park after I die and then to be brought back once Korea recovers its sovereignty. I will also make every effort for the independence of Korea even after I go to heaven.” His family demanded his remains be returned to Korea, but Japan, who was afraid that bringing the remains back to Korea would ignite demonstrations and strengthen the anti Japan sentiment refused and kept his burial site a secret. To this day, Japan has not provided records on the burial of Ahn. 

In recognition of his role as a staunch resistance fighter, Ahn Jung Geun was honored with South Korea's Order of Merit for National Foundation in 1962. The government of Korea continues to be committed in finding his remains.


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