Assassin's Grandson Speaks of Emotional Journey

      May 10, 2005 17:37

      Tatsumi Kawano's face clearly showed the strain when the 84-year old arrived at Incheon Airport on Monday evening.

      Together with his companions on the trip, he bowed his head in greeting and wept. The grandson of Shigeaki Kunitomo, who led the Japanese thugs who broke into the Gyeongbok Palace and assassinated Empress Myeongseong in 1895, Kawano said, "When I was young, I used to play with Empress Myeongseong's key bag, which my grandfather brought back from Korea."

      ◆ Did you know what your grandfather did to Empress Myeongseong?

      "My grandfather died before I was born, but I heard about it from my mother and relatives. When I was young, I thought my grandfather did what he did for Korea's sake and as an expression of patriotism."

      Kawano graduated from Showa Medical School and works as a doctor in his hometown of Kumamoto. Kunitomo had three children, but only his daughter -- Kawano's mother -- survived, while the two sons died early.

      The descendants of two of the Japanese thugs who assassinated Empress Myeongsong in 1895, Tatsumi Kawano (right) and Keiko Ieri, ask for forgiveness on behalf of their ancestors at the tomb of the empress and her husband King Gojong in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province on Tuesday. /Yonhap

      ◆ Do you know specifically what your grandfather did during the assassination?

      "I heard he pointed his sword at the empress and asked her, 'Are you Empress Myeongseong?'"

      ◆ Is this trip to Korea so important to you that you cried?

      "I've never spoken to my wife about my grandfather. I may feel better about things with this apology, but I also worry about something bigger happening. I even heard before I left, "If you go, you could be killed." Most of the members of the Society that Thinks of Empress Myeongseong are my friends or patients who've come to my hospital. Because I've come with them, I've gained courage."

      ◆ This year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, and for Korea it's the 60th anniversary of liberation. Yet due to the Dokdo islet issue and other things, tensions between Korea and Japan are on the rise, and controversies over the past are reviving.

      "There are already Koreans on the Dokdo islets, and debating over the pros and cons is a narrow-minded activity."

      ◆ On your visit to the grave of Empress Myeongseong, also known as Queen Min, and her birthplace, what would you like to say?

      "I want to get on my knees and apologize that my grandfather did not understand the truth about Empress Myeongseong. She was simply using Russia for Korea's national interest... My grandfather thought he was acting for Korea, but it appears he was mistaken."

      ◆ Do you still work as a doctor?

      "I work as an internist, with my grandson, who is an acupuncturist. In Kumamoto, there are many ethnic Koreans, and many Koreans come to our hospital. But they don't know whose grandson I am. Now, I may come to talk of my grandfather with my Korean patients."

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