- Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Korea)
South Korea's Truth and Reconciliation Commission ( _ko. 진실·화해를 위한 과거사 정리 위원회) is a commission established on December 1, 2005, to investigate historical incidents in Korean history, such as the Japanese rule of Korea. The body has investigated numerous atrocities committed by
Syngman Rhee's government during the Korean War. The commission estimates that at least 100,000 people—and possibly 200,000 or higher—were executed in the summer of 1950.cite news |first=Charles J. |last=Hanley |coauthors=Jae-Soon Chang |title=Seoul probes civilian `massacres' by US |url=http://jinsil.go.kr/English/Information/notice/read.asp?num=230&pageno=1&stype=&sval=&data_years=2008&data_month= |format= |publisher=The Associated Press |date=August 3, 2008 |accessdate=2008-08-03 ] cite news |first=Choe |last=Sang-Hun |title=Unearthing War’s Horrors Years Later in South Korea |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/03/world/asia/03korea.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5088&en=c7b2964878ac02df&ex=1354338000&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss |publisher=The New York Times |date=December 3, 2007 |accessdate=2008-05-18 ] The victims were mostly Korean political prisoners and civilians alleged by the government to be Communist sympathizers and collaborators. Recently South Korea's Truth and Reconciliation Commission is concluding the US military indiscriminately killed large groups of South Korean civilians during the Korean War in the early 1950s. The commission has more than 200 cases on its docket, based on hundreds of citizens' petitions recounting US bombing and strafing runs on South Korean refugees gatherings in 1950 and 1951. The commission, which is staffed by 240 people and has an annual budget of $19 million, is expected to release a final report on their findings in 2010.cite news |first=Charles J. |last=Hanley |coauthors=Jae-Soon Chang |title=AP IMPACT: Seoul probes civilian `massacres' by US |url=http://jinsil.go.kr/English/Information/notice/read.asp?num=230&pageno=1&stype=&sval=&data_years=2008&data_month= |format= |work=AP Impact |publisher=The Associated Press |date=August 3, 2008 |accessdate=2008-08-03 ]
Immediately after the establishment of the
Republic of Korea, a.k.a., South Korea, it experienced the tragedy of a civil war; Korean War, exacerbated by a global power struggle between foreign nations; USSRand the US. After the war, a succession of tyrannicaland authoritarianregimes that promoted national security and economic growth at the cost of human rightsled to reprehensible results: human rights abuses, fabricated charges by those in power against political enemies and even mass killings of civilians.
Most of the victims and families lived in constant fear that the perpetrators might come back again; they were forbidden by law to talk about the crimes against their loved ones. And their forced silence has allowed the war criminals go free and prosper. For decades, before right-wing dictatorship gave way to
democracy, the wholesale executions were a forbidden subject in South Korea. The liberal administration of former President Roh Moo-hyun, which set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commissionin 2005, said nations must account for their past.
To correct past wrongdoings, a number of laws have recently been introduced; however, there is no connection or conformity among the laws. Each one deals with a single incident and each provides different provisions for fact-finding, restoring unfairly tarnished reputations and compensation. In addition, the laws do not address the issue of reconciliation, which is necessary for initiating a fresh start.
Thus, the purpose of this Act is to foster national
legitimacyand reconcile the past to bring out national unity by (1) honoring those who took part in anti-Japanese movements (see also anti-Japanese sentiment); (2) investigating incidents regarding human rights abuses, violence and massacresoccurring since Japanese rule and up to the present time, specifically during the nation’s authoritarian regimes; and (3) exposing distorted and covered-up truths.As of July 8, 2008, a total of 10,949 petitions have been filed for investigation, and the commission has completed 3,141 cases (28.7%), dismissed 1,404 cases (12.8%), launched investigations of 7,704 cases (70.3%). Scope of investigation dealt by the commission is largely devided into three (see below for the scope of the commission's investigation).
1. 1940s ~ 1950s
1) Key Events in Contemporary Korean History
Jeju Uprising, a.k.a., Jeju’s 4.3 Incident] (April, 1948)
Gwangbokjeol; Establishment of the Republic of Korea(Aug. 1948)
C. [http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2008/08/198_28249.html] Yeosu-Suncheon Incident (Oct. 1948)
D. cite news |first=Bruce |last=Cumings |title=Origins of the Korean War; Liberation and Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945-1947|url = http://www.amazon.com/Origins-Korean-War-Vol-Liberation/dp/0691101132 = |publisher= Princeton University Press|date=June, 1981 |accessdate=1981-06] The
Korean Warbroke out (June. 1950)
E. cite news |first=Sung Hoon |last=Han |title=A Study on the GeoChang Massacre: Memory of Politics and Sanctioned Massacre|url=http://www.dbpia.com/view/ar_view.asp?pid=130&isid=37613&arid=780674&topMenu=&topMenu1= |publisher=Society and History Association of the Republic of Korea|date=March, 2006 |accessdate=2006-03] Civilian massacre in Geochang (Feb. 1951)
Division of Korea, a.k.a., Armistice agreement signed (July, 1953)
2) Efforts for Truth and Reconciliation
A. Abortive efforts to punish
2. 1960s ~ 1970s
1) Key Events in Contemporary Korean History
A. [http://www.kdemocracy.or.kr/sub_01/engsub_01.asp] 4.19 Democratic Revolution (April, 1960)
B. [http://www.kdemocracy.or.kr/sub_01/engsub_01.asp] 5.16 Military Coup (May 16, 1961); see
History of South Koreafor more details.
Park Chung-heeelected as president (Oct. 1963)
D. [http://www.froginawell.net/korea/2006/01/thoughts-on-yusin/] "Yusin/Yushin (유신; 維新; literal meaning of revitalizing reforms)” proclaimed (Oct. 1972); see
Fourth Republic of South Koreafor more details.
Park Chung-heeassassinated (Oct. 1979)
F. Military hard-liners seized power (Dec. 1979)
2) Efforts for
Truth and Reconciliation
A. National Assembly set up special investigation committee on civilian massacre before and during the Korean War
3. 1980s ~ 1990s
1) Key Events in Contemporary Korean History
Gwangju Democratization Movement; May 18 to May 27, 1980
Chun Doo-hwantakes office as president
June Democratic Struggle
Roh Tae-wooelected as president
Kim Young-samelected as president
Kim Dae-jungelected as president
2) Efforts for
Truth and Reconciliation
A. Special Act on compensation for people involved
Gwangju Democratization Movement(Aug. 1990)
B. Former presidents
Chun Doo-hwanand Roh Tae-wooarrested and put into jail (Dec. 1995)
C. Special Act on the [http://news3.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-06/16/content_4708362.htm] cite news |first=Pliny |last=Han |title=Reconciliation keeps momentum on summit celebrations |url=http://news3.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-06/16/content_4708362.htm |publisher=Chinaview|date=June 16, 2006 |accessdate=2006-06-16 ]
5.18 Democratic Movementand statute of limitations removed for criminal acts violating constitutional order (Dec. 1995)
D. Special Act to reinstate those involved in cite news |first=Myung-lim |last=Park |title=WAR, STATE TERROR, AND INTERNAL PACIFICATION; A CRITICAL STUDY OF THE GEOCHANG INCIDENT |url=http://www.dbpia.co.kr/view/ar_view.asp?arid=765311 |accessdate=2003-11]
Geochang Incident(Jan. 1996)
4. 2000s ~
1) Key Events in Contemporary Korean History
Roh Moo-hyunelected as president
Lee Myung-bakelected as president
2) Efforts for
Truth and Reconciliation
A. (All in Jan. 2000)
① [http://www.mopas.go.kr/gpms/view/english/anot/ano_06_03.jsp] Special Act to investigate suspicious deaths ② [http://www.mopas.go.kr/gpms/view/english/anot/ano_06_03.jsp] Special Act to restore reputation of and compensate for people involved in democratic movements
③ [http://www.mopas.go.kr/gpms/view/english/anot/ano_06_03.jsp] Special Act on
Jeju Uprisingto restore the impaired reputation of the victims.
B. US President
Bill Clintonapologized for [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/world/asia/03korea.html?hp] .cite news |first=Charles J. |last=Hanley |title= Interview with Charles J. Hanley |url= http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=8HP1lOG35Kw = |publisher= Democracy Now ] No Gun RiIncident occurred in Yeongdong, Chungbuk (Jan. 2001)
C. [http://www.mopas.go.kr/gpms/view/english/anot/ano_06_03.jsp] Special Acts to investigate the forced mobilization and
Chinilpa, a.k.a. pro-Japanese collaboration under the Japanese rule, and a Special Act to restore reputation of [http://www.nogeunri.net/english/index.html] No Gun Rivictims (March, 2005)
D. Framework Act on
Truth and Reconciliation(May, 2005)
E. [http://www.mopas.go.kr/gpms/view/english/anot/ano_06_03.jsp] Special Act to investigate of suspicious deaths in the military (July, 2005)
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Korea), launched (Dec. 2005)
G. Special Act to redeem pro-Japanese collaborators’ property was promulgated and went into effect (Dec. 2005)
Roh Moo-hyunapologized for killings of leftists by a past regime (Jan. 2008)
Scope of Investigation;
Korea under Japanese rule
Independence movements during/immediately before the Japanese occupation and efforts by overseas Koreans to uphold korea's
sovereigntyare dealt within this category.
"Abuses of Governmental Power against the Guro Farmland Owners"
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Korea)verified that the government abused its power by fabricating facts concerning the Guro farmland owners. In 1942, the JapaneseMinistry of Defense confiscated the land of 200 farmers in the Guro area. The farmers continued to use the land under the supervision of the Central Land Administration Bureau, even after Korea’s liberationin 1945. Beginning in 1961, the government constructed an industrial complex and public housing on the land. In 1964, the farmers claimed rightful ownership of the land and brought several civil action lawsuits against the government. The rulings for many of these cases weren’t passed until after 1968. By that time, the government began appealing the rulings. They appealed three cases in 1968 and one case in 1970. They accused the defendants of defrauding the government and launched an investigation. The prosecutor arrested the accused without warrants or explanation and coerced them into surrendering their rights through the use of violence. The investigation did not uncover any evidence that supports the accusations. A lack of evidence and the fact that the civil action suit rulings were already passed did not deter the government from demanding the defendants to surrender their rights. After 40 of the defendants refused to accept such a demand, several lawsuits were brought against them. The prosecution accused them of fraud and attempted to punish the defendants by holding criminal trials. Official documents verify the defendants were eligible for farmland distributed by the government under the Farming Land Reform Act. Therefore, they did not defraud the government as claimed. Although most of the defendants were cleared of suspicion, the government conducted a second investigation to punish them. The Commission recommended the government to officially apologize, hold a retrial, and conduct relevant measures for the defendants.
Scope of Investigation;
Human RightsAbuses under Authoritarian Regimes
Incidents of death, injury or disappearance, and any other major acts of human rights violation including politically fabricated trials committed through illegal or seriously unjust exercise of state power such as breaking the constitutional order from August 15, 1945 up until the end of autoritarian governments, particularly under the former generals
Park Chung-heeand Chun Doo-hwan.
Sometimes, the commission deals with cases that have already been ruled in court, but qualify for new trials and need to be reinvestigated for truth; and cases that the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths inconclusively investigated and requested the
Truth and Reconciliation Commissionto reinvestigate.
"1. Fabricated Espionage Charge on Seo Chang-deok"
Seo Chang-deok, a fisherman kidnapped to the
North Koreain 1967 when going out for his regular fishing trip and returned home in the South Korea. 17 years later, Jeonju Security Forcesillegitimately arrested Seo without any particular prosecuting charges using a falsified confession resulted in from illegal confinement and torture. As a result, Seo was sentenced with 10 years of imprisonment and his human rights (see also Universal Declaration of Human Rights) was violated.
"2. The Fabricated Spy Case of Five Fishermen Kidnapped to
The TRCK’s investigation into North Korea’s kidnapping of the five fishermen found that the organization overseeing investigations illegally detained and interrogated the returning men and their families. Based on the organization’s fabrications, the detained were falsely accused and punished for espionage.
On July 22, 1967, the crew of the fishing vessel, Song-yang, operated off the coast of Soyeonpyeong-do when a North Korean coastal defense ship kidnapped them. After a month of captivity, the North Koreans released the fishermen on the west coast where they were met by police officers who promptly questioned them before releasing them without charges.
In December 1968, a year after the kidnapping, a special investigation organization interrogated, without a warrant, five of the fishermen in regards to their work at the time of the incident.
While it had been determined that sea currents carried the Song-yang within range of the North Korean coastal defense ship, the organization accused the men of escaping to North Korea and then infiltrating
South Koreafor propaganda purposes. The organization illegally detained all of the men, including one of their wives, for eighty-eight days. The wife was accused of receiving counterfeit money and coded messages from three unidentified men thought to be spies, as well as failing to notify the authorities.
During their imprisonment, the organization subjected them to abusive interrogation tactics, including torture and assault. Initial reports indicated the Song-yang to be in South Korean waters at the time of the incident, but the interrogators coerced the fishermen to sign false statements saying otherwise. The organization also falsified charges against Ms. Kim, the wife, after they detained her on accusations of accepting
counterfeitmoney. No specific evidence of the unidentified men existed, nor was there any evidence of anyone of that nature visiting her house. The counterfeit money of 500,000 won and the coded message were not found, nor mentioned in any investigation document, and no report describing such an incident was every submitted to the court.
Based on the charges, the fishermen were sentenced to serve between one to five years in prison. Ms. Kim was sentenced to serve one year in prison and one year of probation. As they served their sentences, their families encountered
discriminationdue to the stigmaof being related to a suspected North Koreaspy. This ostracizing affected many family members’ employment as they were unable to obtain jobs. Besides the social stigmatization they experienced after their release, the fishermen suffered psychological trauma from torture and abusive treatment.
The special investigation organization did not limit the scope of the probe to the fishermen. Instead, they extended their interrogations to village acquaintances. Such wide sweeping investigations further ostracized the men and disrupted the amicable relations of the community by exacerbating the hostility and discrimination.
The TRCK recommends that the government apologize to the victims and reexamine or take action of similar level to repair the damage and restore the honor of the victims and their families.
Scope of Investigation; Mass Killings during
summary executions, often practised in a large scale, of civilians from August 15, 1945 up to the end of Korean War. Mass killings were conducted by various parties during the period, including not only both Korean sides against civilians of each other but also indiscriminating bombings on civilians by the US troops.
Bodo League massacre" was taken place by South Koreanpolice against suspicious left leaning civilians, most of them being illiterate and uneducated peasants uninformed or wrongly informed when registering themselves as Bodo League (see Bodo League massacre) members. In the southeastern city of Ulsan, hundreds of people were massacred by the South Koreanpolice during the early months of the Korean Wartaken place between 1950 and 1953. 407 civilians were summarily executed without trials in July and August 1950 only. In January 24, 2008, the former President of Korea Roh Moo-hyunapologized for the mass killings done against suspected leftists about a half century ago.
"1. Wolmi Island Incident"(see also
Battle of Incheon}
Truth and Reconciliation Commission(South Korea)has concluded on March 11, 2008 that the indiscriminating bombing by the US on cite news |first=Sang-hun |last=Choe |title = Korean War survivors tell of carnage inflicted by U.S.|url = http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/21/asia/incheon.php |publisher=International Herald Tribune |date=July 21, 2008 |accessdate=2008-07-21] [http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/21/asia/incheon.php] Wolmi Island, Incheon, Korea on Sept. 10, 1950 caused severe casualties of civilians residing in the area. At the time, the United Nationsattempted a sudden landing maneuver in Incheon, a.k.a. Battle of Incheon, a west coast city from Seoul to reverse the course of the war, and Wolmi Island was laid at a strategically significant location that needed to be secured. [In accommodating the international norm, the American reinterpretation of the noncombatant immunity placed some limits on the use of violence. One clear limit manifested itself in Americans' unwillingness to accept the idea that civilian populations themselves were legitimate targets in war. However, the limits on violence provided meager protection for civilians caught in the midst of American wars, and the reinterpretation of noncombatant immunity helped to justify violence as well. When Americans believed their armed forces did not intend to harm noncombatants and attacked only military targets, they remained more accepting of war's violence. Collateral damage became, to many, an unfortunate but acceptable cost of war., Collateral Damage; Americans, Noncombatant Immunity, and Atrocity after World War II, 2006, Routledge, Sahr Conway-Lanz] It is assumed the US decided to clear any potential threats therein to minimize casualties of its own troops, and thus conducting indiscriminating bombing on the region and resulting in massive civilian casualtiesfrom the local villagers. Survived villagers were forced to evacuate their homes and have not been returned, since it became designated as a strategically important military base even after the Korean War. The Truth and Reconciliation Commissionhas recommended the Korean governmentto negotiate with the US governmentto seek measurements to compensate those victimized by the incident.
[http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/world/asia/03korea.html?hp] WOLMI ISLAND,"cite news |first= KBS|title=PR Apologizes for Past Abuses of State Power|url= http://english.kbs.co.kr/news/newsview_sub.php?menu=2&key=2008012424=|publisher=Korea Broadcasting System (KBS)|date=January 24, 2008 |accessdate=2008-01-24] "2. Bodo League Massacre"
South Korea— When American troops stormed this island more than half a century ago, it was a hive of Communist trenches and pillboxes. Now it is a park where children play and retirees stroll along a tree-shaded esplanade.
From a hilltop across a narrow channel, Gen.
Douglas MacArthur, memorialized in bronze, appears to gaze down at the beaches of Inchonwhere his troops splashed ashore in September 1950, changing the course of the Korean Warand making him a hero here.
In the port below, rows of cars, gleaming in the sun, wait to be shipped around the world — testimony to
South Korea’s industrial might and a reminder of which side has triumphed economically since the conflict ended 55 years ago.
But inside a ragged tent at the entrance of the park, some aging
South Koreansgather daily to draw attention to their side of the conflict, a story of carnage not mentioned in South Korea’s official histories or textbooks.
napalmhit our village, many people were still sleeping in their homes,” said Lee Beom-ki, 76. “Those who survived the flames ran to the tidal flats. We were trying to show the American pilots that we were civilians. But they strafed us, women and children.”
Village residents say dozens of civilians were killed.
The attack, though not the
civilian casualties, has been corroborated by declassified United States military documents recently reviewed by South Koreaninvestigators. On Sept. 10, 1950, five days before the Inchon landing, according to the documents, 43 American warplanes swarmed over Wolmi, dropping 93 napalmcanisters to “burn out” its eastern slope in an attempt to clear the way for American troops.
The documents and survivors’ stories persuaded a
South Koreancommission investigating long-suppressed allegations of wartime atrocities by Koreans and Americans to rule recently that the attack violated international conventions on war and to ask the country’s leaders to seek compensation from the United States.
The ruling was one of several by the government’s
Truth and Reconciliation Commissionin recent months that accused the United Statesmilitary of using indiscriminate force on three separate occasions in 1950 and 1951 as troops struggled against Communists from the North and from China. The commission says at least 228 civilians, and perhaps hundreds more, were killed in the three attacks.
In one case, the commission said, at least 167 villagers, more than half of them women, were burned to death or asphyxiated in Tanyang, 87 miles southeast of Seoul, when American planes dropped napalm at the entrance of a cave filled with refugees.
“We should not ignore or conceal the deaths of unarmed civilians that resulted not from the mistakes of a few soldiers but from systematic aerial bombing and strafing,” said Kim Dong-choon, a senior commission official. “History teaches us that we need an alliance, but that alliance should be based on
cite news |first= The Hankyoreh |title= Waiting for the truth |url=http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/218141.html=|publisher=The Hankyoreh|date=June 25, 2007 |accessdate=2007-06-25]
Bodo League(National Guidance Alliance, 국민보도연맹; gukmin bodo rungmaeng, 國民輔導聯盟) was established on April 20, 1949 in order to convert leftist-wingers residing in South Koreaincluding former members of South Korean Socialist Labor Party [http://ko.wikipedia.org/wiki/%EB%82%A8%EB%A1%9C%EB%8B%B9] (남조선로동당; 南朝鮮勞動黨) and embrace them into citizens of the ‘democratic’ South Korean. However its goal was often considered as a manipulating tactic of the right-winged South Koreangovernment to distinguish potential threat of the communists within the South, and eventually eliminate them completely by summarily executingthem before/during/after the Korean War. Since its headquarter was established on June 5, 1949, regional branches thereof were also set up by the end of that March. In the course of recruiting members of the Bodo League, many innocent civilians were coerced to join the League by regional branches and governmental authorities trying to reach their allocated numbers.
Shortly after the
Korean Warbroke out, Lee Seung-man's government became obsessed with ideas if any communist-sympathizers might cooperate with the communist North and become threats to the South, and ordered to each police station to arrest those who had left-leaning tendencies. From July, 1950 up to September, 1950, police authorities and special troops of the South Koreawere organized to strategically conduct the orders from the above.
In most of cases, arrested
Bodo Leaguemembers or sympathizers were forcefully held in storage spaces nearby police stations for several days before being summarily executedat sites such as remote valleys in deep forest, isolated islands or abandoned mine areas.
It is estimated that the number of
Bodo Leaguemembers reached to 300,000 nationwide before the Korean War, a minimum of dozens of thousands of civilians were illegitimately killed without proper judicial processes. Additionally, bereaved families of victims were branded as those related to communists and often targeted by a series of regimes suffered from severe McCarthyism, and thus being fell into another victims of public authorities.
cite news |first= The Hankyoreh |title=Waiting for the truth |url=http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/218141.html=|publisher=The Hankyoreh|date=June 25, 2007 |accessdate=2007-06-25 ] Goh Gyeong-hwan, a 48-year-old resident of[http://www.genocide.or.kr/news/news_content.asp?idx=2244&midx=0] "3. Uljin Masscre"
Goyangin GyeonggiProvince, felt deeply frustrated as soon as he heard that there would be no chance to find the truth. He had missed his application deadline and now it was too late. He has waited for up to 57 years.
It was mid-May when he made an inquiry regarding his brother’s death with the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Goh drooped his head.
In the summer of 1950, when the
Korean Warbroke out, his brother was taken away for being a member of the National Bodo Leagueby soldiers and policemen who unexpectedly came to the village.
Bodo Leaguewas organized to offer former leftist forces a chance to turn to the right; organization of the 400-member association followed the imperative of the National Security Act (South Korea), which took effect in December 1948. The association was blacklisted and closely watched.
But people who had nothing to do with the left-wing were reportedly forced to take part in the association. During the early stages of the
Korean War, soldiers and policemen massacred them, saying that they might side with the enemy.
Goh said, "The village chief asked that my brother join the National
Bodo Leagueto fill the enlistment quota. After a few days, his brother was found dead; his body too damaged to be identified. “At that time, my brother was newly married and certainly didn’t know anything about what it meant to be rightist or leftist," said Goh.
At the same time, Goh was taken away with another 10 villagers, five of whom later died.
Later that night, Goh’s parents buried his brother’s body on a nearby mountain. The family was branded the family of "a communist and political offender" and made to live on the outskirts of society, fearful that this status would bring great danger into their lives.
After half a century, the
Truth and Reconciliation Commissionwas established to clarify truths in connection with people who were sacrificed in this period of Korean history. The committee received 10,859 cases. However, Goh’s brother’s death was not included in the tally because Goh missed the application period, which ran from December 2005 to November 2006.
The committee has received over 200 additional cases, but it needs to amend the law in order to proceed. Rep. [http://www.kangci.net/] Kang Chang-il of the [http://minjoo.kr/]
United Democratic Party (Republic of Korea)proposed a revision to the bill to prolong the time limit for a maximum of six months.
Goh stated, “Victims have lived painful lives for 57 years, but the nation, the assailant, has said that it cannot redress its unjust treatment of these people because they have missed the deadline.’’
Goh’s family performs a ceremony for his brother at their hometown in Mungyeong, North
GyeongsangProvince, in July every year. Goh hasn’t told his family that they have missed the application deadline and his family is not aware of the fact that they will no longer have a chance to find out the truth surrounding his brother’s death.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Korea)(hereinafter, referred to as “the Commission”) found a total of 256 people were killed in Uljin, Gangwon Province by the South Korea’s police forces, Counter Intelligence Corps(CIC), and the 3rd Army Division of the South Koreantroops after being accused of taking sides with local leftists. The incident was taken place between September 26, 1959 and the end of December, 1959, and the victims were identified by relevant historical documents, testimonies from witnesses and petitioners, records from the Uljin police station, and numerous field researches conducted throughout Uljin. The perpetrators of the incident were public forces of the Uljin police station, CIC, and the 3rd Army Division of the South Korea. Particularly, in October 20, 1950, the reserved troops from the 3rd Army selected approximately 40 village residents having leftist tendency from Uljin police station cells, based on the lists submitted by the right-winged organizations and village chiefs, and summarily executed and buried their bodies at Budul Valley, Hujeong-ri. Between October and November of 1950, the Uljin police office partly released the accused, but 250 something civilians were not so lucky and ended up being scapegoats buried at the Olsi Valley, Shinrim. In addition, November 26, 1950, Onjeong police office arrested residents of Onjeong-myeon and confined them in a storage space before summarily executing 12 of them en route to Uljin police station. And late fall of 1950, several local villagers were accused of providing food to their relatives on the run who had been suspected with their leftist tendency. Again, they also were slaughtered at Sagye-ri, Buk-myeon by the police troops from Hadang police office. According to the Commission, a total of 256 victims was massacred in the atrocity of the incident. The victimized villagers were accused of holding positions in the North Korea’s occupational pseudo-governmental authorities in the region, and this became the cause to set them aside for the mass killings conducted by the right-wingers of the South Korea’s authorities when they re-entered the region. However, at the time of the incident, most of voluntary collaborators to the North Korea’s troop already evacuated and crossed the border to the North, and thus it was mostly civilians spontaneously joined the local leftists who were much involved in the ideology clashes that fell as victims of the incident. In addition, there weren’t any clear distinctions to separate the guilt from the others, and many used it as an opportunity to eliminate personal opponents. These summarily practiced executions of civilians without adequate judicial process are considered to be a crime against humanity, of which pains and sufferings were inherited down to their descendants in various forms of social discriminationand prejudice in the McCarthyismsociety of the South Korea. After pulling off the findings in this regards, the commission advised the government to apologize the bereaved families of the victims to carry out adequate human rights education, and to place memorial services for those who wrongfully prosecuted and murdered.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Korea)found a total of 118 right-wingers including civil servants were killed by left-leaning regional self-defense forces, communist guerillas, and the North Korean People’s Armyin Geumsan-gun after the North Korean troops entered the area, in particular between July and November, 1950. On September 25, 1950, a number of right-wing personnel including civil servants under the South Korean regional government were brought to Geumsan ad-hocpolice entity, which was established by the North after its entry to the region, and slaughtered and buried at a nearby hill called Bibimi-jae. The massacrewas carried out by members of the ad-hocentity and the North Korean troops given with authorities from the chief of the Geumsan ad-hoc police entity. At the dawn of November 2, 1950, a group of communist guerillasswarmed into the Buri-myeon police branch governed by the right-leaning South, incinerated the building, and captured those therein. In the course of the assault, many villagers stood accused of collaborating the South and 38 of them were executed. Additional atrocious mass killings on civilians by communist partisansin locations like Seokdong-ri of Namyi-myeon, Eumji-ri of Geumsan-gun, etc. were also confirmed by the commission during the investigation. Most of victims were blamed of being affiliated to the South Korean governing entities before the North’s entry to the region or accused of having right-leaning tendency. The accused included members of the Korean Youth Association (대한청년단; 大韓靑年團)and the Korean National Association (국민회; 國民會), both of which were the representative right-winged political organizations in the peninsula. In spite of the various accusations, the commission discovered the majority of casualties were generated irrelevantly from what described above, but from personal animosities to eliminate their adversaries. According to the commission’s investigation, the perpetrators of the "Geumsan Massacre" were members of the regional self-defense forces, communists partisans, local leftists residing in the area, or the North Korean troops fell behind their main regiments. Hereby, the commission recommended revising the historical accounts kept in governmental archives in accordance with the commission’s finding.
"5. Gurye Massacre after the YeoSun Incident"
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Korea)(hereinafter referred to as “the Commission”) ascertained that between late October 1948 and July 1949 in Gurye, shortly after the Yeosun Incident, a large number of civilians were illegitimately killed and sacrificed as South Koreantroops and police forces conducted military operations to subdue communistinsurgents. The mass killings in the Gurye region (a.k.a. the Gurye Massacre) are considered separate from the Yeosun Incident.Approximately 800 civilians were massacred, but only 165 victims were identified after researching various historical records kept in [http://english.archives.go.kr/] Korea’s National Archives Historical Records of Subjugating Communist Insurgents(공비토벌사; 共匪討罰史) in the South Korean Army Headquarters (1954) and statements from witnesses and field researches.The South Koreantroops and police forces captured, tortured, and executed civilians accused of collaborating with local leftists or insurgents. It has been verified that villages located near insurgent bases were incinerated and their residents accused of collaboration before being executed during the “clean-up” operation of communist insurgents. A series of such mass killings occurred between late October 1948 and early 1949 near Gurye when the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 3rd Regiment of the South Korean Army were based in the region. Gurye Police Office detained civilians suspected of collaborating with local communist partisansand commonly tortured their captives before executing them and concealing their bodies in nearby areas or on Mt. Bongseong. The members of the Korean Youth Association(대한청년단; 大韓靑年團) in Gurye also directly or indirectly abetted these systematic operations of mass killings by providing groundless accusations and supporting the extermination of those affiliated with communist guerillas or local leftists. They mostly assisted with the removal and burial of bodies after the executions. Accusations against victims varied; joining a left-leaning organizations, such as the Socialist Labor Party in South Korea(남로당; 南勞黨). Other accusations were as minor as residing near areas targeted by the military or being related to suspected victims. The South Korean troops and police forces commonly conducted indiscriminate arrests, detention, or imprisonment. They also tortured and summarily executed people without adequate confirmation procedures or legitimate judicial processes. The proclaimed martial law at the time was not supported by any legality, and thus the administrative and judicial authorities of the chief commander under martial law were subject to revocation. Furthermore, those wrongfully given administrative and judicial authority were arbitrarily interpreted and implemented by regional chiefs, which increased the number of civilian casualties. Even if martial law is considered legitimate, the principle of non-combatant immunitywas neglected for the authority to execute innocent civilians.Perpetrators often practiced a type of extrajudicial punishment to conduct summary executions(즉결처분권; 卽決處分權). This was often misunderstood to be a given right that allowed them to arbitrarily kill civilians. Even with martial law, the summary executionshould abide by military regulations. Thus, civilian massacres by the South’s authorities cannot be justified in any sense. The Commission found that the killing of innocent civilians by the public authorities in Yeosooand Suncheongreatly transgressed the constitutional legality given to the military and police force at the time. They failed their sacred obligations of protecting the lives and property of civilians. Hereby, the Commission advised the government to officially apologize to the bereaved families of the victims, restore the honor of the dead, revise the historical records in accordance with the findings, and reinforce education on sustaining peace.
"6. Massacre at Muan-gun "
Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Korea verified that on October 3, 1950, leftists massacred 96 right-wing residents of Cheonjang-ri , Haejae-myeon, Muan-gun. Around 10:00 pm on October 3, 1950, four regional leftist leaders selected the execution lists for right-wing residents in the region.
The selected families were bound and dragged by the leftist perpetrators to a nearby shore. The perpetrators executed the adult family members using knives, clubs, bamboo spears, and farm implements before pushing them off a cliff near the shore. Children under the age of 10 were executed by being pushed into a deep well.
While the Commission identified 96 victims, including 22 children and 43 women, the total number may be as high as 151. The total number of perpetrators is estimated to be 54 leftists. Due to the execution of women and children, this massacre reflects inhumanity and brutality of the war. Therefore, the Commission recommended that this incident offers an opportunity for self-examination in regards to the atrocities of war.
Future of the Truth-finding Work in Korea
Since the conservative Grand National Party (한나라당) took the office in Korea under the new president
Lee Myung-bak, it is frequently regarded the commission's capacity and mandate have become more volunerable. Other commissions established during the former president Roh Moo-hyunalso have been brought on the table for the Lee government's reductive policy, and put under the reductive budget list of the government's next fiscal year.
The commission has been actively attempting to build an international alliance with countries that have similar historical experiences of civil wars and authoritarian dictatorships, and pursued to settle the past atrocities. Recently, it signed an
MOUwith Chileand currently working towards Argentines. Lately, the commission invited Jose Alvarez Junco, who was deeply involved to draw the drafts of " Historical Memory Law" cite news |first=Jose |last=Alvarez Junco |title=Franco bill divides Spaniards |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7103867.stm|publisher=BBC News Radio|date=November 20, 2007 |accessdate=2007-11-20 ] of Spain passed the Corte in 2007 and exchanged relevant truth-finding experiences with Spain. cite news |first=Jose |last=Alvarez Junco |title=Prof. José Álvarez Junco, reconociendo a las víctimas de injusticias pasadas |url=http://world.kbs.co.kr/spanish/town/town_people_detail.htm |publisher=KBS World Radio|date=October 8, 2008 |accessdate=2008-10-08 ]
Questions and Answers
Q1. It seems that the mission of the
Truth and Reconciliation Commissionof Koreais quite different than previous transitional justice efforts (such as the Presidential Truth Committee on Suspicious Deaths), due in large part to the emphasis on reconciliation.
A1. The correct title for the commission mentioned in the parenthesis above is “the Presidential Commission on Suspicious Deaths in the Military.” As indicated in its name, there’s a clear distinction in its scope of investigation compared to our commission. It only deals with cases in the military, while our commission deals with overall human rights abuses during
Korea’s democratizationprocess. Additionally, there was also a commission named the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths, which ceased its investigative activities on June 30, 2004. (Please see our website at http://jinsil.go.kr/English/index.asp On the bottom right side, you will find the button titled, "Former Truth Commissions.") The other commissions in Korea involved in related truth-finding work investigate distinctive areas covering either different time periods or different sectors of society. We believe truth-finding work is an initial step to reach a possible reconciliation. Without it, the achievement of reconciliation would be practically impossible. All of the above-mentioned commissions are dedicated to uncovering the truth from past wrongdoings. In this sense, they share the same qualifications to investigate cases for reconciliation, which is the fundamental goal of all truth-finding activities.
Q2. To what extent is reconciliation a goal of the TRCK?
Truth and Reconciliation CommissionKorea does not have any authority to prosecute or provide economic compensation to petitioners, but it has a right to investigate filed cases, submit investigated reports to the President and the Parliament twice a year, and afterwards, report its findings to anybody interested. As commented above, we believe truth-finding is the first step toward reconciliation. Although the commission doesn’t have direct authority to prosecute, petitioners are still empowered by using the commission’s findings for judicial settlements; often resulting in some kind of compensation.
Q3. How is reconciliation pursued (Truth-telling? Apologies from perpetrators? Reparations from the courts?)?
A3. You understood correctly. Measures below are used to seek reconciliation between perpetrators and victims.1. Truth-telling through commission’s investigative reports, 2. Recommendations to public authorities to give formal apologies to victims, 3. Judicial settlements from the courts,4. Restoring honors of the victims by establishing memorial monuments or holding memorial services, etc.
Q4. I have read the TRCK's 2008 brochure, which does a good job at laying out the framework of reconciliation. I would just like to have some additional information to better understand the activities of the TRC, government, and civil society in terms of reconciliation efforts. I am trying to pin down if the TRCK is a turning point in transitional justice in Korea in regard to reconciliation. Could you direct me to previous efforts at reconciliation in
South Korea(in the post-military regime period)?
A4. The investigative scope of the
Truth and Reconciliation CommissionKorea largely covers three different areas: Overseas independence movements during the Japanese occupation, mass civilian sacrifices before and during the Korean War, and human rights abuses during Korea’s democratization. There were previous efforts to seek truth and settle past wrongdoings. In 1948, a special law was passed to prosecute Japanese collaborators during Japan’s colonial regime, yet it was annulled in 1951; this law is largely acknowledged as unsuccessful and a large number of those accused of collaborating with the Japanese occupational government were never brought to trial. Many even prospered during the U.S. occupational government, the military dictatorships, and to this today.
Although, during the period of military dictatorships in
Korealittle attention was given to the truth-finding work in the governmental arena, there were constant movements among civil groups and the public; the Gwangju Democratization Movementin 1980, the Student Demonstration at Konkuk Universityin 1987, etc. These are good examples of how people and civil groups continued to pursue the truth even under severe authoritarian repression. In 1995, a valuable lesson was proven with the prosecution and sentencing of two former authoritarian rulers of Korea, Chun Doo-hwanand Roh Tae-woo; even successful coups can be punished. The systematically implemented truth-finding work at the governmental level only began when former president Roh Moo-hyuntook office.
Q5. What is the level of truth that the TRCK is trying to achieve? Would you say it is more of a narrative-truth or legal truth (beyond a reasonable doubt)?
A5. Could you define “narrative-truth” and “legal truth”?
Q6.I saw on the website that an MOU was recently signed with
Chilein the area of transitional justice. Congratulations! What other nations has the TRCK worked with or looked to for guidance? Are there any other nations that the TRCK or Korean government has formal agreements with in the realm of transitional justice?
A6. Many other countries also share similar stories that
Koreahas, and thus leaving responsibilities of settling the past to all. Not to mention the countries involved in the I and II World Wars, there still are plenty of countries out there to look for exemplary stories in regard to truth-finding works. Among those, we can easily look to cases from South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Rwanda, Cambodia, Indonesia, Spain, even Canadaand the U.S.Our commission tries to build an international alliance in relations to make truth-finding process soother for respective nation. Currently, we’re working toward developing an MOU with Argentineans.
[http://jinsil.go.kr/english/ Official Web site]
[http://english.archives.go.kr// National Archives of Korea]
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