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[Op-ed] Branding an independence activist’s grandson as pro-Japanese

[Op-ed] Branding an independence activist’s grandson as pro-Japanese

Posted June. 25, 2014 05:04,   


Moon Nam-gyu sacrificed his life in a battle against Japanese soldiers in Sakju, North Pyongan Province, in 1921. He was a member of the Korean Independent Union, a group of Korean soldiers fighting against the Japanese colonial rule. After the March 1 Movement in 1919, Korean soldiers created the union to effectively conduct armed struggles against Japan. They wanted to recover the country’s sovereignty back from Japan and go back to the era of Emperor Gojong of the Joseon Dynasty. The union had some 100 chapters in and outside of Korea, and the members fought for their lives to restore the sovereignty on the Korean Peninsula and Manchuria until 1923.

In 2012, a special team investigating historical materials at the Patriots and Veterans Affairs Ministry selected Moon Nam-gyu as an independence activist, based on the news article in Dongnip Shinmun dated on April 9, 1921. Former President Lee Myung-bak awarded him posthumously the Order of Merit for National Foundation, Patriotic Medal, on the Day for Patriots and Veterans on Nov. 17, 2010, saying, “He made great contributions to the independence of the Republic of Korea and the foundation of this country.” This was posted on the website of the Patriots and Veterans Affairs Ministry and was noticed to the Committee for the Five Northern Provinces. As his descendents did not show up, the ministry has been keeping it.

The name of the grandfather of Moon Chang-keuk, a prime minister nominee who withdrew his name from consideration on Tuesday, on his Old Family Census Register was identical to Moon Nam-gyu, even in Chinese characters. The Patriots and Veterans Affairs Ministry, which reviewed the Register submitted by Moon on Sunday, found that Moon’s grandfather and the independence activist are the same person as the activist died in Sakju, North Pyongan Province, the origin of domicile of Moon’s grandfather. Moon’s late father, Moon Ki-seok (born in 1914) would say when alive, “My father died when I was seven.” The year of death of the nominee’s grandfather is consistent with 1921 when Moon Nam-gyu died.

The nominee said at Tuesday`s press conference, “I used to hear from my father that my grandfather died while participating in the March 1 Movement.” Probably he did not know about his grandfather, an independent activist. This shows the heartbreaking story of a family that came from the North to the South. It was his mistake of not studying the root of his family as he began searching for his grandfather only before the parliamentary confirmation hearing. Anyway, it is curious what Moon Nam-gyu, the independence activist, would say about those who drove out his grandson from the nominee position by branding him as being “pro-Japanese.”

Editorial Writer Choi Yeong-hae (hychoi65@donga.com)