The emotional ties that bind forever

Updated: 2014-05-27 07:32

By Luo Wangshu, Ji Jin and Tan Yingzi (China Daily)

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The emotional ties that bind forever

Liu Xiutong displays his parents’ wedding photo at his home in Chongqing. Liu’s father, Yu Jin-dong, was the personal physician to Kim Gu (1876-1949), the last president of the Provisional Government of Korea. GAO YUAN/FOR CHINA DAILY 

The Hongkou incident

Attention began to focus on the provisional government on April 29, 1932, during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. A Korean activist named Yun Bong-gil threw a bomb onto the reviewing stand as Japanese officials were celebrating the birthday of Emperor Hirohito at the city's Hongkou Park. General Yoshinori Shirakawa was killed in the attack, and several other high-ranking officials were injured, including Mamoru Shigemitsu, who lost his right leg. Shigemitsu later served as Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs and was the government's representative at the signing of the instrument of surrender aboard the USS Missouri in 1945.

"Two Japanese generals were killed on Chinese territory during the Japanese invasion, and one of them was killed by a Korean," said Jia Qinghai, the principal of the site of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in Chong-qing.

The then-President of the Chinese Republic, Chiang Kai-shek, spoke highly of Yun, praising him as "a young Korean patriot who has accomplished something tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers could not do".

When the members of the provisional government were forced to flee Shanghai to avoid Japanese reprisals, the Chinese authorities came to their aid.

"The Chinese government helped the provisional government move to Hangzhou, then Changsha, Guangzhou and Liuzhou, until they finally arrived in Chongqing," said Kim from the South Korean consulate.

In addition to providing financial aid, the Chinese authorities also helped the provisional government to establish the Korean Liberation Army. Meanwhile, some members of the provisional government headed north to Yan'an in Shaanxi province, where they joined Communist forces in the fight against the Japanese, according to Piao from the CASS.

"The provisional government aimed to free the Korean peninsula. The Koreans and the Chinese were facing a common enemy, so many Koreans stayed in China to fight the Japanese. To them, no matter where they fought, they were fighting the same enemy," Piao said.

The provisional government arrived in Chongqing in 1939, where the security afforded by the city provided fertile soil for its ideas to develop and mature, according to Jia of the Chong-qing museum.

"The Chinese government allowed an armed force to operate on Chinese soil, which illustrates the great mutual trust between China and Korea. The Korean Liberation Army made great efforts fighting the Japanese with the Chinese army," he said.

The Communist Party of China also maintained a close relationship with the provisional government, and many leading Party members, including Zhou Enlai, Deng Yingchai and Dong Biwu, attended an event to commemorate the anniversary of the declaration of Korean independence.

Before he left China in November 1945, Kim Gu published an open letter in which he expressed gratitude for the financial support provided by the Chinese government. He noted that the help had been freely given, even though China itself was experiencing extreme hardship.

Although the provisional government was officially launched in 1919, Piao said Sino-Korean ties can be traced back still further.

In 1910, a Korean independence activist named An Jung-geun assassinated Ito Hirobumi, the Japanese prime minister, at the railway station in Harbin, Heilongjiang province.

"Reports from the Korean peninsula, Japan and Russia condemned An as a terrorist, and only the Chinese media spoke highly of him," Piao said, adding that Zhou Enlai once commented that Sino-Korean ties in the fight against Japan started with An.

In January, a museum in memory of An was opened at the Harbin railway station.

Kim from the South Korean consulate said that it's essential for all parties to come to an agreement about the past to build a peaceful, enduring relationship.

"All Japan needs to do is to admit what it did, instead of denying the facts. Korean people are reasonable. Although our ancestors had conflicts and misunderstandings, we believe that the peoples of Korea and China would forgive Japan if it just admitted the truth about its history," Kim said.

A mark of respect

In 1957, Liu and his family returned to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. However, when Liu's father went missing in 1959, his mother decided to return to her native China with her six children. The family moved to Chongqing in 1963.

"It was hard for my mother to raise us six siblings. She was given a job at the people's hospital in Shizhongqu district and worked there until she retired," Liu recalled. He said the government took care of the family and even arranged a job for him at a factory when he graduated from high school.

Liu's mother never remarried and raised her six children alone. She died in 1997. However, Liu has never forgotten his father. "The image of my father leaving the railway station in 1959 is imprinted on my mind," he said.

As a mark of respect, Yu Jin-dong was posthumously awarded the Medal of the Order of Merit for National Foundation by the government in 2007, an honor reserved for those who contributed to the founding of the modern Republic of Korea.

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