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Late Seoul archbishop was Japanese collaborator

Updated: November 11, 2009 10:50 AM GMT
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The late Archbishop Paul Ro Ki-nam of Seoul and six other Catholics are named as Japanese collaborators during the Second World War in a new encyclopedia.

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Archbishop Paul Ro Ki-nam named as a Japanese collaborator in the new encyclopedia

Catholic lay leader John Chang Myon, prime minister from 1960-1961 and the father of Bishop John Chang-yik of Chunchon, is on the list along with four Seoul priests and one other lay leader. The Catholics are among 4,389 collaborators named in the three-volume work, the name of which translates as the "Pro-Japanese Collaborators Encyclopedia." Archbishop Ro, the country´s first Korean-born bishop, chaired the Catholic Federation of Seoul Diocese to Fully Support Japan´s War from 1940, and is said to have visited a Korean soldiers´ training camp for Koreans forced to "volunteer" to fight for Japan. Archbishop Ro also instructed Catholics to observe every first Sunday of the month as "Patriotism Sunday" and say a "prayer for Japan´s war" twice a day and following Sunday Mass in 1942, the encyclopedia says. Chang, the coordinator of the Catholic federation, was the councilor of the pro-Japanese National Federation for Japan´s War, according to the encyclopedia. It is not the first time the Seoul-based Institute for Research on Collaborationist Activities has named the late prelate and Chang , but the encyclopedia is the most complete attempt to date at categorizing pro-Japanese collaborators. The institute launched the encyclopedia at a ceremony in Seoul on Nov. 8 attended by some 400 historians and civic group members. "How much they actively, voluntarily and consistently cooperated with Japan at that time was a major consideration for the institute when it finalized its list," Yie Myung-suk, a researcher of the institute, said. The issue of collaboration has been a contentious one since Korea was liberated from Japanese rule, which lasted from 1910-1945. South Korea failed in attempts to punish the pro-Japanese collaborators following liberation but the issue has remained a sore point for many and public calls to prosecute collaborators, known as chinilpa, have gained ground in recent years. Father Bosco Byeon Seung-sik, undersecretary of the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of Korea, told UCA News that the encyclopedia´s list is misleading and should have made a clear distinction between active pro-Japanese collaborators and passive ones. "The Church had nothing to benefit from such cooperation. Under Japan´s severe oppression, Archbishop Ro just tried to protect the Church and its faithful," he argued. Archbishop Ro became the first Korean bishop to head Seoul vicariate in 1942. He became an archbishop when the vicariate was elevated to an archdiocese in 1962. He retired in 1967 and died in 1984.

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