December 05, 2023

How a long-dead independence hero became embroiled in inter-Korean tensions

Hong Beom-do, celebrated for fighting Japanese Empire, is now at center of South Korean debate over his communist ties

South Korean defense minister nominee Shin Won-shik faced a parliamentary grilling at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday. But while lawmakers interrogated the retired lieutenant general over his past remarks and North Korea, a rather unusual topic took up an inordinate amount of the proceedings — Shin’s views on a long-dead communist guerilla fighter.

Since early September, one of the most contentious issues in South Korean politics has been the decision to relocate a small bust of the guerilla leader Hong Beom-do from the Military Academy where it was installed in 2018.