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S. Korea to hold remembrance ceremony for independence fighter at center of ideological dispute

Oct. 24, 2023 - 09:39 By Yonhap
A bust of Gen. Hong Beom-do at the Ministry of Defense in Yongsan-gu, Seoul (Yonhap)

The veterans ministry said Tuesday it will hold a remembrance ceremony for revered independence fighter Hong Beom-do this week to mark the 80th year since his passing amid a heated ideological debate over his ties to Soviet communist forces.

The ceremony will take place Wednesday at Daejeon National Cemetery in Daejeon, 139 kilometers south of Seoul, where his body lies at rest, with some 100 people set to attend the event, including Veterans Minister Park Min-shik, according to the ministry.

Hong has recently become the subject of the ideological dispute after the defense ministry said in August it was considering relocating his busts from the Korea Military Academy and its headquarters, both in Seoul, citing his past record of collaborating with Soviet forces.

The push for the relocation has sparked fierce debate over its legitimacy, with the opposition Democratic Party and advocates for independence fighters strongly protesting against such considerations.

Hong is a historic and highly symbolic figure in Korea's fight against Japan's 1910-45 brutal colonial rule.

As a top commander of Korean independence forces, he spearheaded victories in battles against Japanese forces, including the Battle of Fengwudong in Manchuria, China, in 1920. The following year, he moved to the Soviet Union, seeking refuge from Japan's forces.

He was forced to relocate to current-day Kazakhstan in 1937 under then Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's policy, along with many other ethnic Koreans. He died at the age of 75 in the Kazakh region of Kyzylorda on Oct. 25, 1943, two years before Korea's liberation.

In 2021, his remains were repatriated to South Korea and buried in the current location. (Yonhap)