The Long Road toward Truth and Reconciliation
Unwavering Attempts to Achieve Justice in South Korea
Author: Kim Dong-Choon
All East Asian countries have suffered in the shadows of the cold war conflict, but few have confronted their dark past as squarely as Korea. Korea, thanks to the TRCK and the efforts of other past-dealing commissions, is the first country in Northeast Asia to confront its dark past during the cold war in such a comprehensive manner. Korea's initial attempts to overcome the legacy of Japanese colonialism were brought to a halt by cold war conflicts. The failure to secure historical justice during the state-building era led to more atrocities by state authorities, and as the state elites consolidated their power, further efforts at justice were discouraged. While the ideological conflicts of the cold war impeded Koreans' efforts to uncover the truth about their past, South Korea's strong democratization movements finally overcame those obstacles and began addressing the long suffering of Korea's victims. The establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republid of Korea (TRCK) was an achievement of democratization. The TRCK's mission was to confront the sufferings of the colonial rules of Japan, the indescribable losses of civilian lives from massacres during the war, the human rights abuses under the authoritarian regimes, a search for the truth, and finally to achieve justice. The TRCK's work shows that the people's long struggles for truth can bear tangible fruits of justice. But the tasks remain unfinished, because cases of truth-finding remain unresolved and it is uncertain that the government will implement the TRCK's recommendations, such as offering formal apologies, starting reparative processes.