South Korea's veterans ministry said Monday it has deleted a state burial record describing Korean War hero Gen. Paik Sun-yup as a pro-Japanese figure, saying that such an expression was written with no legal grounds.
The ministry said it has decided to remove a phrase identifying Paik as a person who engaged in pro-Japanese and anti-national activities in the late general's online burial record on the Daejeon National Cemetery's website, a term that strikes a sour note due to Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The description had been in place since his burial in 2020 at the cemetery in Daejeon, 139 kilometers south of Seoul, as a presidential committee put him on a list of pro-Japanese figures in 2009, citing his military service for Manchukuo, a puppet state for Imperial Japan, during Tokyo's colonial rule.
Paik served in the pro-Japan Gando Special Force under the Manchukuo Imperial Army from 1943 to 1945, which was tasked with suppressing anti-Japanese forces. When he was alive, Paik denied that he actually fought against Korean independence forces.
The ministry said there was no legal basis to include the description unrelated to his merits as a war hero, which had qualified him to be laid to rest at the cemetery.
In February, Paik's family members submitted a petition to the ministry, calling the description defamation against the deceased and requesting its removal.
Veterans Minister Park Min-shik called Paik the "greatest hero," who made contributions for the country to overcome the 1950-53 Korean War, and vowed to prevent such incidents without legal basis from happening again.
The late general, who died on July 10, 2020, at the age of 99, was credited with leading key battles during the conflict and served as the fourth chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the war.
Meanwhile, a state-funded association of independence fighters and their descendants called for the reinstatement of the record, saying that such a removal should be made with a consensus from the public.
"The ministry's unilateral removal of the (record) without legal and procedural discussions and a public consensus is a hasty decision that could incite discord among the people," the Heritage of Korean Independence said in a statement. (Yonhap)