Thursday, November 26, 2009

Binding praise for South Korea

The New York Times just delivered an important message to the world : "South Korea Admits Civilian Massacre During War" (20091127).

The message is not "South Korea committed civilian massacre during War" : that monstruous fact was already known as the National Guidance Alliance / Bodo League Massacre (보도연맹 사건).

The real message is : "South Korea is a great country and at peace with itself because it admits its past wrongdoings".

At last !*

Well... South Korea is almost there, but not there yet.

First, the journalist doesn't go all the way, and basically stops at the realization that the announcement from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (news conference last Tuesday, see also communique below**) "marked the first time a state investigative agency confirmed the nature and scale of what is known as "the National Guidance League Incident" _ one of the most horrific and controversial episodes of the 1950-53 war."

Second, and as we've seen before*, "a state investigative agency" is not exactly "South Korea", and for South Korea to really accept its status as a great country, the Korean Government has yet to fulfill its duties and prolong the fantastic job of the TRCK. What strikes the reader when he goes through this communique (and most previous communiques from the Commission) is of course the litany of horrors, but also the mantra at the end of each case :
The Commission recommended the government to issue an official apology, provide support for memorial services, revise official documents including the family registry, and strengthen peace and human rights-related education.
Hereby, the Commission recommended the government to officially apologize to the victims, support memorial services, revise the family registry and other historical records, and provide peace and human rights education.
Hereby, the Commission recommended the government to officially apologize to the victims, support memorial services, revise the family registry and other historical records, and provide peace and human rights education.
Hereby, the Commission recommended the government to officially apologize to the victims, support memorial services, revise the family registry and other historical records, and provide peace and human rights education
Hereby, the Commission recommended the government to officially apologize to the victims, support memorial services, revise the family registry and other historical records, and provide peace and human rights education.

...
Of course, a South Korean president officially apologized for the state's illegal actions against civilian victims (the late Roh Moo-hyun on January 24, 2008), but each and every case has to be recognized and correctly dealt with. That's a long but indispensable process.


Third, this article exposes one side of one coin. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission re-establishes Truth for victims of pro-North as well as pro-South forces, Truth for victims of Japanese rule as well as Korean authoritarian regimes***... Furthermore, beyond Truth, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is promoting Reconciliation, in spite of limited support from the Government. I recently welcomed the news of a joint memorial for victims of all sides held in Naju, but others took place in Ulsan (precisely for Bodo League victims), Andong, Pyeongtaek...

Korea will be fully liberated when the reconciliation process is completed.

Tears will be shed, including tears from people who committed atrocities****... but yes, Reconciliation feels really good when everybody is there : in Andong, the Ministry of Defense did issue an official apology to the civilians who were killed there by the military and local police.

Forget about the 2010 G20 Summit in Seoul. This is President Lee Myung-bak's unique opportunity to shine at the global level : an Obamaesque "Change has come to Korea" would resonate for generations to come.


Seoul Village 2009

* see previous focuses on transitional justice in Korea (and recent changes in Japan) :
- "
Joint Memorial in the Land of the Mourning Calm"
- "
Truth and Reconciliation : which model for Korea ?"
- "
A Common History"
- "
President Lee, keep digging"

----

** TRCK's communique (Monday, November 23, 2009)

National Guidance Alliance (Bodo League)-related Massacres in the Gunwi, Gyeongju, and Daegu Regions - Verified on Sept. 8, 2009

The Commission ascertained that at least 99 local residents in Gunwi, Gyeongju, and Daegu were massacred between July and August 1950 by the military and local police and CIC after being blacklisted or accused of being members of the National Guidance Alliance.

In July 1950, dispatched CIC forces and local policemen arrested and temporarily detained members of the National Guidance Alliance at local police stations or detainment centers. The detainees were categorized into three different groups before being transported to Naenam-myeon, Ubo-myeon, and Gunwi-gun and massacred.

The Commission recommended the government to issue an official apology, provide support for memorial services, revise official documents including the family registry, and strengthen peace and human rights-related education.


National Guidance Alliance-related Massacres in the Goryeong, Seongju, and Chilgok Regions in Jeonnam Province - Verified on Sept. 8, 2009

The Commission found that a number of civilians were killed by the local police, military, CIC, and military police after being accused of cooperating with leftists or being a member of the National Guidance Alliance (NGA). The killings took place between July and August 1950 in the Goryeong, Seongju, and Chilgok-gun regions in Gyeongbuk Province .

NGA members were either arrested by local police or summoned to nearby police stations and detained. As North Korean troops advanced southward, the army and military police took custody of the detainees before killing them.

Hereby, the Commission recommended the government to officially apologize to the victims, support memorial services, revise the family registry and other historical records, and provide peace and human rights education.


National Guidance Alliance-related Massacres in Miryang, Gyeongnam Province - Verified on Sept. 8, 2009

The Commission ascertained that members of the National Guidance Alliance in the Miryang region were massacred by the local police and the Gyeongnam CIC between July and August 1950.

The victimized NGA members and those in preventive detention were forcefully confined to various warehouses before being executed in August 1950.

Hereby, the Commission recommended the government to officially apologize to the victims, support memorial services, revise the family registry and other historical records, and provide peace and human rights education.


National Guidance Alliance-related Massacres in Yangsan, Gyeongnam Province - Verified on Sept. 8, 2009

The Commission found that regional members of the NGA and those in preventive detention were killed by the local police and CIC forces between July and August 1950.

The victims were either forcefully arrested by the police or summoned to the police station where they were detained or transferred to nearby detainment centers before being executed in August 1950.

Hereby, the Commission recommended the government to officially apologize to the victims, support memorial services, revise the family registry and other historical records, and provide peace and human rights education.


National Guidance Alliance-related Massacres in Yeongdeok, Gyeongbuk Province - Verified on Sept. 8, 2009

The Commission ascertained that in July 1950, approximately 270 regional NGA members and those held in preventive detention were illegally victimized by the military and police forces in Yeongdeok, Gyeongbuk Province.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War, the 23rd Regiment of the 3rd Army and Yeongdeok Police were concerned that NGA members may collaborate with the North Korean People’s Army and sabotage operations behind the frontlines. In order to prevent this, the police and army executed the NGA members.

Hereby, the Commission recommended the government to officially apologize to the victims, support memorial services, revise the family registry and other historical records, and provide peace and human rights education.


National Guidance Alliance-related Massacres in Busan and Sacheon - Verified on Sept. 8, 2009

The Commission found that the regional NGA members and those in preventive detention were killed by the Busan CIC and the military and local police between July and September 1950.

The NGA members in the Busan and Sacheon regions were forcefully arrested or summoned to local police stations where they were detained before being executed.

Hereby, the Commission recommended the government to officially apologize to the victims, support memorial services, revise the family registry and other historical records, and provide peace and human rights education.



www.jinsil.go.kr/english




*** note that abuses from Korean authoritarian regimes were not all ignored by their partners... and in at least one occasion a US representative sanctioned a massacre, as related here by Charles J. HANLEY (AP) :



**** like this "bujangnim" (Mr Chief), recalling the horror of a massacre :

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