Remains of Korean independence fighter Hong Beom-do return from Kazakhstan

Remains of Korean independence fighter Hong Beom-do return from Kazakhstan
An honor guard of South Korea’s military carries a portrait of Hong Beom-do, a historic independence fighter during Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, and his coffin at Seoul Air Base in Gyeongi Province on Sunday.

The remains of Hong Beom-do, a historic Korean independence fighter, were brought home from Kazakhstan on Sunday, 78 years after his death in the Central Asian nation.

President Moon Jae-in received and honored his remains at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, as Korea marked Liberation Day to commemorate the anniversary of its liberation from Japan‘s 1910-45 colonial rule.

Hong, who served as general commander of Korea’s independence army, is a historic figure in the nation‘s fight for liberation. He is especially famous for leading a historic victory in the Battle of Fengwudong, called Bong-o-dong in Korea, in northeastern China against Japanese forces in 1920.

He spent the end of his life in Kazakhstan, forced to migrate there under then Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin’s policy. He died in 1943 at the age of 75. His remains had been buried in the Kazakh region of Kyzylorda.

Moon formally requested cooperation for the repatriation of the remains during his summit talks with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in the Central Asian nation in April 2019.

The two sides initially agreed on the return of Hong‘s remains in 2020, the centennial anniversary of the Battle of Fengwudong.

But it was put off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, Moon dispatched a special delegation, led by Patriot and Veterans Affairs Minister Hwang Ki-chul, to bring the remains home on a KC-330 special military aircraft.

Moon made a nighttime trip to the airport, along with first lady Kim Jung-sook, to observe the national flag-draped coffin unloaded from the plane by an honor guard in a solemn ceremony.

Moon and Kim then burned incense and paid silent tribute in front of the coffin.

As the aircraft carrying the remains entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone (KADIZ), it was escorted by six fighter jets — the F-15K, F-4E, F-35A, F-5F, KF-16D and FA-50 — in a show of “utmost respect.”

The late general will be laid to rest at a national cemetery in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, on Wednesday following an official mourning period.

The Kazakh president is scheduled to make a two-day state visit to South Korea from Monday, during which he will hold a summit with Moon.

Moon said in his Liberation Day speech earlier in the day, “I am very pleased that my administration‘s diplomatic efforts to repatriate his remains have come to fruition.”

He added, “I am deeply grateful to Kazakh President Tokayev and the Korean diaspora there for all of their cooperation, both emotionally and materially.”

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