Monday, 1 March 2010

코리아 獨立 萬歲!

March the first - and our remembering of the movement of that name - is bound to have a particular resonance during this centennial anniversary of Japan's colonial conquest of the Korean peninsula. There are all sorts of vexed political questions attached to how - and what - we remember, questions I'm not in a position to explore here. For many of us, though, one way to pay tribute to that time is to remember that struggle continues.

I want to offer as a small tribute to today's history this image of Yu Gwan-sun, one of the many martyrs of the fight for Korean independence. There's so much about her story which is moving - her suffering in prison, the courage of her Christian faith, her tragically young death - but what I see and keep seeing in this image is the certainty of her defiance.

I first saw this photograph hanging from the wall of a peace museum in Nagasaki, a museum whose volunteers have set themselves the task of telling the stories of Japanese imperialism in Asia, stories of cruelty and oppression those in power would rather see forgotten or denied. Their task is a thankless and sometimes threatening one and, in that context, Yu Gwan-sun's portrait - and her steady gaze and cool defiance facing what must often be skeptical and hostile visitors - is an encouragement and inspiration.

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