Memorial for a Korean kamikaze pilot

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    The International Herald Tribune reports on the creation of a monument in South Korea to Tak Kyung-hyun, a Korean who fought and died as a Japanese special attack pilot in the Pacific War:

    A half-century after his death, Tak’s Korean hometown is looking to change that legacy with the first memorial in South Korea to a former kamikaze. But as the unveiling approaches, opposition is growing from conservative residents who still harbor strong resentment against Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

    The 16-foot-high (4.6-meter-high) stone memorial, now covered with a tarp, was scheduled to be unveiled in the southeastern city of Sacheon on Saturday, the eve of Tak’s death 63 years ago. He died when his explosives-laden plane is believed to have crashed in the water short of a U.S. warship that was his target.

    The project had attracted little controversy until a group of activists began demanding this week that the city cancel the opening ceremony, threatening to disrupt the event and take down the monument.

    “He was a kamikaze, an aggressor,” said Lee Sun-bok, head of a group opposed to the memorial.

    But Hong Jong-pil, a South Korean historian working on the memorial project, said the pilots should be seen as victims of the colonial period. He cited recent studies finding they did not volunteer for their suicide missions but were pressured or forced.

    “It’s time to save those who have been lost in the black holes of history,” Hong said.

    Sacheon City official Kim Tae-ju said his office is trying to convince the activists that the purpose of the memorial is to console war victims. But it remained uncertain whether the unveiling would go ahead as scheduled.

    If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Tak Kyung-hyun, please watch this subtitled Japanese TV program about his death and the search for his surviving family in Korea. (Translated and uploaded by Oniazuma, featured on Japan Probe in May 2007)

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    Part 1
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    Part 2
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    Part 3
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    [hat tip to the Marmot’s Hole]

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