South Korea’s TRC to fold

24 March 2010 by Don Kirk

South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), founded in 2005 as an independent agency with a broad mandate to cover a century of abuse, faces dissolution by the country’s conservative government. The TRC is likely to last another few months wrapping up investigations and then fade away, a relic of the decade of liberal leadership that began with the inauguration of President Kim Dae-jung in February 1998.

“The massive body of research and reports it leaves behind is significant,” says journalist Choe Sang-hun, who has written extensively on the commission’s findings. “The nation has never done this kind of work on this scale.”

Initiated during the presidency of Kim Dae-jung’s successor, Roh Moo-hyun, the commission took its name from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Left-of-centre Roh endorsed the concept of a commission in response to demands for a thorough probe into human rights violation practices. With nearly two hundred people on its staff, the commission has been the most ambitious effort ever to document who-did-what-to-whom in the last century of Korea’s turbulent history. Investigators scrutinized records and interviewed both perpetrators and victims of abuse.

Under the terms of the Fundamental Law to Settle Past Affairs for Truth and Conciliation, enacted by the National Assembly of South Korea in May 2005, investigative teams in the past five years returned to every aspect of human rights violations dating from the Japanese colonial era in 1905.

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