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Friday, September 10, 2010

TRCK : families of victims demand essential follow-up

As many feared (see "TRCK lost in translation or lost in transition ?"), Korea's excellent Truth and Reconciliation Commission appears to have been deliberately torpedoed during its final year. Feeling betrayed by this spectacular turnaround, families of victims issued the following statement :

"[Statement] Truth and Reconciliation Commission, light up the last conscience!!

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Korea has finished their investigation and has 5 months left to complete their term until this December. It will pass into history after fulfilling its 4-year mission as a governmental specialized agency.

At first, the TRC had been launched with nation-wide anticipation for conducting fact-finding investigation about the forbidden area of the past incidents in this society. However, that praise had turned to suspicion at the last stage of its term because of the following reasons.

After change of political regime, the TRC was reorganized with figures that are far from fact-finding. There had been even internal attempts to try to turn over the investigation result which the TRC had perseveringly made progress in until the middle and latter stage of its term. There had also been arbitrary decisions of the TRC.

Regardless of their political backgrounds, those disappointing results spontaneously remind us of what they had done in the past. It is unbelievable that the personnel from New Right, which is regarded to have a distorted view of history, conduct a truth and reconciliation task.

The New Right thinks Japanese Occupation period as a touchstone of modernized society in Korean history and worships Japan as an unforgettable benefactor who blessed our country. Moreover, they are the writing staff of <>, which directly challenges the traditional textbook. They even say they inherited a tradition of notorious ‘Iljinhoe’ in Japanese Occupation period. It is surely quite a sight how they treat our past incidents.

After Youngjo Lee, chairperson of the TRC, controlled the organization, what he has been repeating is that past decisions could be overturned, the commission decision is merely a judgment of majority of the commission members and the commission at that time made an impetuous decision. At the same time, he fools around the bereaved family by saying that the commission is putting forth its best effort to get the best result.

Until now when the investigation has ended, among all the accepted cases, 8,173 petitions are in relation to civilian massacres. 6,701 cases out of 8,173 were identified, 721 cases were dismissed, 445 were incompetent to proceed, and the rest is etc. Compared to the former chairpersons, the rate of dismission and incompetence is much higher. It is OK to say that the commission issued the indulgence to the former government of Seungman Lee.

Regarding damage due to the U.S military bombing, 56 cases out of 157 (35.6%) were decided to get investigated. After Youngjo Lee seized the power as head of TRC, decisions about those cases were delayed continuously and one or two days before time limit, a stack of cases were brought in to the committee of the whole. As a result, 101 cases were categorized as incompetent.

The former chairman Byungook Ahn said that even though the U.S. military needed to bomb, because bombardment without a proper civilian rescue act is clearly a breach of international humanitarian law and law of war, it is hard to evade the responsibility for the U.S. On the other hand, the current chairman Youngjo Lee takes a stance that the U.S bombing would not be legally problematic because intention or illegality was not proved with the criteria of urgent military necessity. If Lee’s parents or whole family were massacred by the bombing, he would not dare to say something which makes non-sense.

Although a great number of civilians died due to massacre by their own government and the U.S mistake, there seems to be no sense of guiltiness in the current government, which is quite surprising. As long as exist the current government which named the former Syngman Lee regime as a father of Korea’s founder and the board members of the TRC who flatter the current government, it seems to have a long way to recover the honor of victims who were butchered unfairly during the Korean war.

It is also worrisome about the contents of the final report which will be presented to the president at the end of this year. If the expression “regret”, which Japanese politician often uses, will be repeated, what is the point of the report?

Although it is late, we call upon staff of the TRC for awakening. For the very last period, we hope they recover the reputation of the civilian victims with their best effort.

In this sense, we urge them to recommend the government the followings. The government should give another chance to the bereaved family who has not applied for their inquiry. A Special Law of reparation and compensation for the bereaved family with an identified case should be enacted. An organization which discuss about excavation of missing corpse, laying the body in state, coming up the follow-up measures of the TRC should be launched. A memorial park and reconciliation foundation should be established.

When those measures are taken, it is a start to regain the impaired reputation of the victims and dry tears of the left family.

We sincerely hope that a great enlightenment of the TRC members becomes a sound of conscience and it be heard loud and clear.

July 23, 2010

Civilian victims of bereaved family union of Korean War
Chairman Wonrok Oh
Representatives Yonghae Yang, Jonghyun Kim, Gwangho Kim, Youngsun Seo, Joonpyo Jang, Namsoon Park, Taejoon Lee"

Sounds like actual "fair society", doesn't it ?

Seoul Village 2010

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