Wednesday, September 2, 2009

President Lee, please keep digging

War is always a tragedy, and civil war always an even dirtier mess. Korean War was no exception, with infamous abuses from all sides of the conflict.

Under Roh Moo-hyun's watch, Korea decided to get the record straight and face its own troubled past. An independant commission had to be set up for the task : The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic Of Korea (TCRK)*.

That was a noble and courageous step forward, necessary to secure the future of democracy. And the ultranationalists who denounce the Commission and keep lobbying against it are actually undermining Korea as a nation. They don't like to hear about previously taboo topics (such as Gwangju Massacre), but I guess they would love to see
Japan taking the same sound and courageous steps regarding its own history...

These extremists may be winning (and thus Korea losing), because the mandate for the commission set up for the task is unlikely to be renewed later this year. I learned the shocking news from CHOE Sang-hun's essential paper about Korean War secrets in today's NYT / IHT**.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission ** is doing a terrific job, confirming 50 mass killings of civilians, locating 168 mass graves, and on the way to recovering the remains of 1,700 civilians by April 2010.

Along with sad cases from Goyang and Gwangamri***, the journalist brought up this very true comment from Heonik Kweon : "what South Korea now does with these ruins of the 20th century will surely have huge implications on how the country will define its identity in the new century and its moral standing in the regional and world community".

So President Lee, leave Korean greenbelts alone, but please keep digging for truth, even if it's inconvenient, and particularly if it's inconvenient.

And in the unfortunate event of a rebuke, I hope some whealthy citizens will keep this essential quest afloat.


SM -
Seoul Village 2009

* The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic Of Korea (
jinsil.go.kr) :
Under the Framework Act on Clearing up Past Incidents for Truth and Reconciliation, the Commission’s purpose is to foster national legitimacy and reconcile the past for the sake of national unity by honoring those who participated in anti-Japanese movements and exposing the truth by investigating incidents regarding human rights abuses, violence, and massacres occurring since Japanese rule to the present time, specifically during the nation’s authoritarian regimes.
** "
Korea Investigates Atrocities in Race Against Time" (New York Times 20090904)

*** judging by the map I guess that's Gwangam-ri in Illo-eup, Muan-gun, Jeollanam-do. That's the point I'll position on the map.

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