|▲ General Hong Beom-do’s burial ceremony (Source:Yonhap News)|
This year’s Liberation Day of South Korea was more meaningful than Liberation Days of past years. This is because General Hong Beom-do(1868-1943)’s remains were returned to Korea 78 years after his death. His remains were moved by South Korea’s Special Transport Plane. Many people greeted him when landed safely. The Korean Government placed him at the National Cemetery in Daejeon.
Throughout history, he was called, “the Siberian Tiger,” as he passed the Baekdusan Mountain and Manchurian fields to destroy the Japanese Army. What was his life like? Why could he only return to Korea from Kazakhstan 78 years after his death?
General Hong Beom-do, who was over 180 centimeters tall with a handlebar mustache was a commander of Plebeian origin. He led the Bongoh Town Battle and carried on an independence movement. When he was young, he lost his parents. As a young man, he was a hunter, but as he grew older, he started to do civilian army activities. He founded the Korean Independence Army-after the 1919 Independence Movement of Korea. The Korean Independence Army crossed over Dumangang River for localized advance operations and they destroyed the Japanese patrol. As a result of this incident, Japan founded an army corps called, “the Wolgang Chasing Squad.” They came to the Town of Bongoh to kill the Korean Independence Army. Fighting for independence, General Hong Beom-do led an ambush on Bongoh Hill and annihilated them. This battle, which was overwhelmingly won by 157 Japanese soliders and 4 independence soliders is the result of the Bongoh Town Battle.
This battle was the first major battle between the Korean Independence Army and the Japanese Army. Upon this opportunity, there was an active movement for independence in Korea. Also, General Hong Beom-do achieved a great victory during the Battle of Cheongsan-ri with General Kim Jwa-jin. The Japanese were furious about this, so they committed the Gando Massacre, where they killed thousands of Manchuria Koreans. Due to the continuous oppression of the Japanese, armies for national independence including General Hong Beom-do, left Gando. They moved to Russia with Russia's cooperation. However, the Ja yu-si Massacre was committed there and they had to return to Korea to escape further persecution. After that, General Hong Beom-do, lived in the Littoral Province. However, in 1973, Stalin executed the deportation of Koreans from the Soviet Union, so he had no choice but to move to Kazakhstan. There, he lived as a guard of the Goryeo Theater and he wasn't able to witness the independence of Korea. In 1943, he spent the last days of his life lonely without loved ones in a foreign field.
Currently, he has been returned to South Korea safely, but the process of his repatriation was long and difficult. This is because it took a long time for the Kazakh Government to decide which country to send the remains of General Hong Bum-do. At the time of the Kim Young-sam Administration, South Korea agreed in principle with the Kazakh government to repatriate his remains. In response, however, North Korea insisted that his remains should be placed in his hometown of, Pyongyang. Kazakhstan's Government had begun to lean on South Korea's side in regards to the repatriation of his remains. This is because the government was resistant to North Korea's nuclear development plan. Additionally, the public’s opinion of Kim Il-sung's hereditary system was not well receibed in Kazakhstan's society. Moon Jae-in, the President, started to give an all-out effort for the return of General Hong Bum-do’s remains. Prior to his visit to Kazakhstan in April 2019, he strongly ordered the Foreign Ministry to include the remains of General Hong Bum-do as an agenda item for the summit. In September of the same year, the President also sent a personal letter to Kazakhstan's President through the Foreign Minister at the ‘Korea-Central Asia Forum,’ to request the repatriation of General Hong Bum-do. This served as an opportunity to obtain a definite answer to the return of his remains.
In June of last year-, the 100th Anniversary of the Bongoh Town Battle’s Victory was held. General Hong Beom-do. So, Moon Jae-in, the President tried to bring his remains then. However, it was postponed due to the coronavirus. It ended with Kazakhstan's President’s visit to South Korea.
Moon Jae-in, the President said, “General Hong Beom-do’s efforts for Korea’s independence will lead to a more intense, passionate country,” in the commemorating speech for the memory the general. The public's enthusiasm for the memory of General Hong Bum-do was also passionate. More than 2,800 people visited the memorial altar at Daejeon Memorial Park from the 16th to 17th of last month. General Hong Bum-do’s posting to the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, which was posted on SNS, had a million views.
This allowed General Hong Beom-do to see his country's independence, and Korea once again looked back on independence activists. However, there are many independence activists who have yet to return to Korea. I hope they will be able to return safely to their homeland and welcome the liberation they have achieved with their efforts. I also hope that we all pay more attention to Korean history for examples of such bravery.
By Lee Yeon-jin, cup-reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
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