Catholic patriot’s paintings become national treasures in Korea

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South Korea

Ahn Jung-geun drew calligraphic artwork in prison before his martyrdom in 1910

One of five calligraphic works of art by Ahn Jung-geun now recognized as National Cultural Treasures of South Korea. (Photo: Cultural Heritage Administration)

Posted: May 13, 2022 05:46 GMT

Updated: May 13, 2022 at 05:56 GMT

South Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration has recognized five paintings by Catholic independence hero Thomas Ahn Jung-geun as the nation’s cultural treasures.

State recognition of the calligraphic works, drawn by Ahn in prison before his execution by Imperial Japanese forces, came on May 3 Korea Catholic Time announced May 11.

The paintings include a handprint of Ahn before his martyrdom in China in 1910. Ahn signed all of his paintings with the phrase “Written by Ahn Jung-geun” in Korean.

With the inclusion of five new items, the Korean government has designated a total of 31 Ahn-related documents as national treasures in recognition of his sacrifice for Korean independence from Japanese rule.

The Cultural Heritage Administration said the five paintings deserve recognition for their historical values.

“These paintings have historical values ​​and symbolize the deeds of Ahn Jung-geun. The quality of the work is comparable to that of the works already designated, the state of preservation is very good and the transmission history is clear. Therefore, it deserves to be designated as a treasure,” the agency said.

“They express the universal moral values ​​of humanity and, depending on the interpretation, one can also find a connection with the theory of Eastern peace advocated by Ahn Jung-geun”

Ignatius Gwang Jo, former chairman of the National History Compilation Committee, said Ahn’s paintings have universal moral values.

“They express the universal moral values ​​of mankind, and depending on the interpretation, we can also find a connection with the theory of Eastern peace advocated by Ahn Jung-geun,” he said.

Born September 2, 1879 in Haeju in Hwanghae Province (now North Korea), Ahn Jung-geun was the eldest of four children born to his Buddhist parents.

Ahn and his family members became Catholics in 1897 through missionary evangelism.

Ahn collaborated with foreign Catholic missionaries to evangelize Koreans despite pressure and persecution from Buddhist rulers of the Joseon dynasty. With the support of the Catholic Church, he established two schools and served as their director.

On October 26, 1909, Ahn shot and killed Hirobumi Ito, four-time Prime Minister of Japan and the first Japanese Resident Governor General of Korea, in Harbin, northeast China.

Korea was a protectorate under Imperial Japan and a powerful nationalist movement for independence arose. Historical records suggest that Ahn’s father advised him to join the movement to liberate the country from Japanese occupation.

On October 26, 1909, Ahn shot and killed Hirobumi Ito, four-time Prime Minister of Japan and the first Japanese Resident Governor General of Korea, in Harbin, northeast China.

Ahn was detained and incarcerated by Japanese forces. He was executed by hanging on March 26, 1910 in Lushun prison in China. He was only 31 years old.

For his struggle for independence and his sacrifice, Ahn is considered a national icon in Korea and appears regularly in theater, art, literature and music.

In 1962, the South Korean government awarded Ahn the Order of Merit from the National Foundation for his contributions to the independence movement.

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