SEOUL, - South Korea's Veterans Minister Park Min-shik honored independence fighter Hong Beom-do on Wednesday, highlighting his contributions despite a current ideological debate concerning his connections to Soviet communist forces. The commendation comes amid political tensions over Hong's legacy.
According to a news release by Yonhap News Agency, Minister Park spoke at a ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of Hong's death at Daejeon National Cemetery, 139 kilometers south of Seoul, where Hong's remains are interred. Park extolled Hong for his pivotal role in the battles of Fengwudong and Qingshanli in 1920. These major battles took place in Manchuria, where Hong led Korean independence forces. He later moved to the Soviet Union in 1921 to escape Japanese forces.
Hong has become a contentious figure following an August announcement by the defense ministry that it was contemplating the removal of his busts from its headquarters and the Korea Military Academy in Seoul. The reason cited was Hong's historical collaboration with Soviet forces. The move has sparked strong opposition from the Democratic Party and advocates for independence fighters.
Hong was forced to move to current-day Kazakhstan in 1937 under the policies of then-Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, where he died in the Kazakh region of Kyzylorda in 1943. This was two years before Korea was liberated from Japan's colonial rule, which spanned from 1910 to 1945. In 2021, Hong's remains were repatriated to South Korea and are now buried in Daejeon.