On Shifting a Nation’s Collective Memory: The Role of Ahn Jung-geun in South Korea’s Foreign Policy

Asian Journal of PEACEBUILDING, Volume 8 Number 2 (November 2020)

This article revisits the role that Ahn Jung-geun plays in Korean collective memory today and contrasts this with the Moon administration’s foreign policy. An analysis of Korean collective memory shows that Ahn’s assassination of Ito Hirobumi is heavily emphasized but Ahn’s ultimate goal of bringing peace to Northeast Asia is overlooked. This emphasis is understood through Jan Assmann’s model of collective memory. Based on Aleida Assmann and Linda Shortt’s proposition, it is argued that the historical figure of Ahn can instead play a constructive role. Shifting the focus of collective memory toward Ahn’s ambition for peace in Northeast Asia may serve as a positive nudge for Seoul’s Japan policy, thus helping to ameliorate Korea-Japan relations in the medium term.