The memorial sparked strong protests from the Japanese government.
A memorial hall commemorating anti-Japanese activist Ahn Jung-geun has been opened in Harbin, China, drawing praise from South Korea but criticism from Japan.
Ahn is known to have assassinated Hirobumi Ito, the first prime minister of Japan. The hall, the first in China to honor the South Korean national hero, was built inside the VIP facilities at Harbin Station, the site where the assassination took place.
“People have treasured Ahn’s memory for a century. Today, we are erecting a memorial to him and calling on peace-loving people around the world to unite, resist invasions and oppose war, ”said Sun Yao, vice governor of Heilongjiang, said. Xinhua.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry praised the museum, saying it would “pave the way for genuine peace and cooperation based on correct historical knowledge.”
The memorial has been criticized by the government of Japan, where Hirobumi Ito is considered one of the founding fathers of the country. Chief Cabinet Secretary and government spokesman Yoshihide Suga called the opening “regrettable” at a regular press conference.
“The Japanese opinion of Ahn Jung-geun is that he is a terrorist who has been sentenced to death for the murder of Ito Hirobumi, our first prime minister,” he said.
Saenuri Party Secretary-General Hong Moon-jong hit back at Suga at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, saying, “If Ahn Jung-guen was a terrorist, then Japan was a terrorist state for ruthlessly invading and looting. the countries that surrounded it.
Ahn Jung-geun is considered a national hero in South Korea for resisting Japanese influence on the peninsula in the 19th century. School children across the country learn about it in textbooks or through memorials.
Last June, South Korean President Park Geun-hye proposed the monument during a Korea-China summit in Beijing, which led to reports in Japanese media that South Korea and China were collaborating against the Shinzo Abe administration in Tokyo.
Japan’s relations with South Korea and China have deteriorated since the Abe administration took office in late 2012. The Japanese prime minister’s recent visit to the controversial Yasukuni shrine has sparked protests from its neighbors and even a statement from the US Embassy which said he was “disappointed.”
The Ahn Jung-geun Museum is not the first memorial to be criticized by members of the Japanese government. Last week, a group of Japanese politicians traveled to Glendale, Calif., To protest a statue honoring Comfort Women across Asia. The delegation held up a sign reading: “Children need heart warming monuments”.