Monday, January 11, 2010

Why the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a good thing

The Korea Herald looks at the results of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's investigation into Chun Doo-hwan's military group's assault on the media in 1980, and "confirmed that the military rulers illegally forced the industry shakeup to control critical media and smooth its way to power."
"Chun Doo-hwan and his new Army elite were directly involved in the media closure and consolidation incident with an aim to take over power," the commission said.[...]

"The state is required to recognize the responsibility for the forceful infringement on the freedom of media and apologize to the victims," the commission said. The panel also recommended that the government restore the honor of the victims and take appropriate measures to compensate them.

The junta consolidated a total of 64 media outlets into 18 - 28 newspapers into 14, 29 broadcasters into three, and seven wire news services into one.

On Nov. 12, 1980, the media owners were summoned to the Defense Security Command. Agents armed with guns and knives coerced them to give up management control. They threatened tax probes and audits to defiant executives, according to the inquiry report.

Beginning in July of that year, the government forced media firms to dismiss more than 1,000 journalists and banned them from seeking employment in the industry. A total of 172 periodicals were also summarily abolished the same month.

The unprecedented oppression was part of a "cleanup campaign" aimed at consolidating Chun's power base.[...]

[In December, 1980] the Chun government enacted the notorious Basic Press Act, putting news media under strict state censorship and banning cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcasting networks.

The truth commission began the investigation on Nov. 20, 2007, and examined about 45,000 pages of documents and interviewed 152 people including then-Defense Security Command investigators, it said.
One wonders about the long-term effect of stifling so many media voices.

The Joongang Ilbo reports that moves are being undertaken - by members of the GNP, which is a name change or two away from being the ruling party when Chun was president - to compensate those who suffered because of the Basic Press Act. It also notes the history of similar compensation:
In recent years, the Chun regime’s oppressive actions have been investigated, and the state has compensated victims after the legislature established special laws on restitution.

One key example was the government’s handling of victims of the Samcheong Training Camp, a sort of concentration camp operated by the Chun regime to discipline people it considered harmful to society.

The regime established the camp inside a military unit, and 39,742 civilians, including journalists who lost their jobs during the media restructuring, were forced to undergo corrective programs. More than 50 inmates died and many suffered physical and mental trauma.

In March 2003, the National Human Rights Commission urged the National Assembly speaker and the defense minister to pass a special law to lay bare the truth about the camp and compensate victims. The National Assembly approved the law in December 2004, and 3,000 victims and their families were compensated.
I've posted about such investigations of the past before, such as revoking medals for actions during the 12.12 coup and the Kwangju Uprising, the Nokhwa Program, and two posts about the Silmido Incident. While some of these investigations into the past have been politically motivated, ones such as those just mentioned have served the purpose of shedding light on the state's past human rights violations and have led to the rehabilitation of and compensation for the victims or their families.

No comments: