Descendants of Korean Queen's Assassins Apologize

      May 09, 2005 19:01

      Two descendants of the assassins of Empress Myeongseong, also known as Queen Min, visited Korea on Monday to apologize 110 years after her brutal slaying. The two are Tatsumi Kawano, the grandson of Shigeaki Kunitomo, a key figure in the assassination, and Keiko Ieiri, the wife of the grandson of Kakitsu Ieiri.

      Kunitomo, who worked for Adachi Kenjo's Japanese-language newspaper Hanseong Sinbo at the time, led the thugs who broke into Gyeongbok Palace to assassinate the queen.

      Their descendants arrived in Korea with 10 members of a group of mostly ex-teachers calling itself the Society that Thinks of Empress Myeongseong. They will pay homage at the tombs of the murdered queen and her husband King Gojong in Namyangju City on Tuesday and visit the empress' birthplace in Yeoju County, Gyeonggi Province. They will go to the Okho-ru pavilion of the Gyeongbok Palace, where the queen was killed in 1895, on Thursday.

      Kawano, an internal medicine specialist, visited his grandfather's grave before boarding the plane to Korea on Monday morning to tell him where he was going, he said.

      Kunitomo was charged along with Japanese consul to Korea Koro Miura and 54 others for the assassination of Empress Myeongseong, but a Hiroshima court freed them all in 1896 for want of evidence.

      A painting portrays the burning of the corpse of Empress Myeongseong by her Japanese assassins in the Gyeongbok Palace following her murder in 1895. Some 110 years after the assassination took place, the descendents of the Japanese assassins visited Korea and apologized for their ancestors' deeds.

      The Society that Thinks of Empress Myeongseong is a civic group formed in November by about 20 former teachers from the Kumamoto area, the home of the two assassins. They tracked the assassins' descendants and conducted exhaustive research into the incident in the belief that only if Japan starts reflecting on this early incident in its colonial history can it become truly reconciled with Korea.

      The visit was arranged by freelance journalist Chung Soo-woong, who has been tracking the descendents of the assassins since last year. "The apology by the descendent of the assassins... is a start to improving the Korea-Japan relationship, which has grown so tangled over the last 110 years." Chung's documentary of the visit will be broadcast on SBS TV in August.

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