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Conclusion

By 2012, the major activities of various truth commissions had reached an effective end, leaving a multitude of policy recommendations behind for implementation. As many scholars and practitioners have already noted, it is extremely unlikely that another truth commission will be established in the near future.122 The prospect is even more discouraging since Park Geun-hye, a leader of the conservative Saenuri Party and daughter of Park Chung-hee (who regarded the TRCK’s finding as a “personal offensive” against her),123 won the presidential election in December 2012. Most of Park’s supporters in conservative political groups believe the activities of the TRCK are little more than “score-settling” by leftists.124

However, the future is still bright when we consider that the work of any truth commission does not end with the mere completion of its mandate. Rather, it is simply another beginning, as we have seen in many international and domestic examples. Civil society and academia can continue the legacy of truth commissions; one way is to create a permanent institution. A truth commission is only a temporary organization; its work and legacy can and must be continued in a permanent institution. Through a research and memorial foundation, other critical projects - such as a reparation or excavation program - can be initiated. The research and memorial foundation can better lay the foundations for the long-term goals of reconciliation and the achievement of historical, political, and legal justice.125

The Jeju Commission has already set up the Jeju 4.3 Peace Foundation to promote peace and human rights by both maintaining the Jeju 4.3

  • 122 Hye Ryeong Kwon, “A Critical Evaluation on Treatment of Illegal Rulings by Truth and Reconciliation Commission - Citing Illegal Rulings Based on Unconstitutional Law,” Heonbeophak Yeongu [Studies on Constitutional Law] Vol. 16, No. 2 (2010), p. 421.
  • 123 Myo-ja Ser and Il-hyun Baek, “Park Calls Release of Judges’ Names a Political Attack,” The Joongang Ilbo, February 1,2007.
  • 124 Sang-Hun Choe, “South Korea Reviews Its Dark Past, but the Pace Is Slow,” The New York Times, March 11, 2007.
  • 125 Kim and Selden, “South Korea’s Embattled Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

Museum and Memorial Park and conducting additional investigations.[1] For the TRCK, the Framework Act provides an explicit legal ground to establish a permanent research foundation.[2] The creation of the permanent foundation is still possible for two reasons: first, there is a group of activists, researchers, and victims who strongly believe that the work of the TRCK remains unfinished;[3] and second, South Korean scholars - particularly in the field of history - are paying more and more attention to contemporary history due to the work of various commissions. Topics once forbidden in academia are now relatively freely discussed among a new generation of scholars. As long as victims and civil society continue to demand truth and justice, and sympathetic scholars seek to find the truth, the future is bright.

  • [1] Jeju Commission, Hwahae-wa Sangsaeng: Jeju 4.3 Wiweonhoe Hwaldong Baekseo[Reconciliation and Coexistence: The White Paper on the Activities of the Jeju Commission], p. 311.
  • [2] The Framework Act for Clearing Up Past Events, article 40.
  • [3] Kim and Selden, “South Korea’s Embattled Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
 
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