Korea needs even more Truth and Reconciliation

In its 2009 International Symposium (see program below*), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic of Korea (TRCK) collected priceless insights, very comforting for the future of Transitional Justice in Korea and, beyond, for the future of democracy itself.

This country is about to decide which model to follow, with the unique opportunity to not only follow but lead, and even become a role model for all Asia. The Commission has already accomplished a terrific job, and Korea needs it more than ever, not only because more truth needs to come out. But for reconciliation to succeed, Korea needs its government to play its role, to fully support transitional justice as a whole (i.e. beyond the TRCK, the settlement foundation has yet to be established according to the law), and to guarantee the success of national reconciliation. Any failure to do so would definitely send the wrong message to the world about the level of democracy in Korea.

Hopefully, this simply can't happen in this century.

Yesterday, among the cases from Africa, Americas, Africa, and Europe, I expected the most from Rwanda and indeed, ITCR Judge PARK Seon-ki delivered a comprehensive presentation, including precious insights about the local context (i.e. the Gacaca justice system). I only wish he had more time to raise the "national reconciliation" issues, critical in a country where genocide survivors often live in the same village as their torturers.

Dr. Martin Salm (Germany) put the human factor centerstage, and that's a necessity when all you can give to people who lost 3 years of their lives as forced laborers is 500 euros... not much at the micro level, but his EVZ foundation eventually distributed about 5 billion euros to 1.6 million victims across Europe, and that's not petty money. Korea and Japan can learn a lot from this impressive publicly and privately funded international effort, but also from the importance of the care given to grieving individuals often suffering from isolation. Reconciliation is also about replacing bitterness and anger with peace, recognition, and confidence in the future. Strenghtening society and lifting the whole nation instead of letting it rot it in a nationalist dead end. For chaebols often perceived as distant from the people, contributing to this national cause would not only be the high road, but an easy one at that if they want to enhance their own image.

In Korea like everywhere else, victims first need to be officially, and if possible legally, recognised as victims. This usually comes before financial reparations. Condemning methods (beyond potential political / ideological sensibilities) is also essential : the most powerful sentence ever pronounced by Barack Obama is "
we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals". Punishing the criminals is yet another level, and Korea will probably fine tune its amnesty / trial ratio. But if much truth remains to be uncovered, the time of reconciliation has come, and that will require pedagogy, sensibility, a lot of work on memory, with visible, tangible, shared elements to not only honor and remember, but also strengthten society and its future.

Honoring the great Latin American literary tradition, former Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission President Salomon Lerner submitted a brilliant text with a universal reach. One can only subscribe to his beautifully crafted focus on the power of words and the clarity of the vision, the importance of "a prudent approach to social expectancies (...) which demands, in turn, a fine and responsible crafting of the discourse and messages", and the need to prolong this writing with "memory, that, in becoming social life and in being fecundated by ethical motivations, becomes a true transformer of history".

I wish Dr. Leigh Payne used a more "responsible crafting of the discourse and messages" in her own conclusions, particularly since those were only temporary conclusions following the first part of her very interesting research on 91 national cases of Transitional Justice. She did use all the right precautions in her speech, but "verba volant, scripta manent", and the slide bluntly singled out TJ systems featuring only truth commissions as potentially "harmful". Such a message could be misunterpreted and thus maybe "harmful" to transitional justice, particularly in countries where truth commissions very existences are threatened... It can be misunderstood and almost sounds like blaming a thermometer for fever : of course, what is "harmful" is the abuses perpetrated, and certainly not the doctor examining the wound and recommanding ways to cure and prevent further damage - what is also "harmful" is the lobby trying to silence the doctor, or to discredit him by depriving him of his most essential tools. TRCs are not into reopening wounds : they are an essential part of the healing process, the guarantee for a better future.

That said, I'm not exactly a model in "fine and responsible crafting of the discourse and messages", and I naturally agree with Dr Payne's results, which look totally logical : Truth Commissions simply cannot work as stand alone tools precisely because they are not meant to work as stand alone tools... except in those countries where they are set up as smoke screens (or rather, as Dr. Payne finely and responsibly put it, "facades"), by governments who want to appear as mature democracies facing their own pasts. That is, fortunately, not the case of Korea, where the TCR was really meant to help the country move to a higher level.

But the TCRK was given a relatively limited reach, and key elements of the Basic Law for the Settlement of Past Incidents have yet to be implemented. Furthermore, the success of the whole system depends on the full support of a government which, these days, can at times appear uncomfortable with transitional justice : as I pointed out earlier**, ultra-conservative die harders keep lobbying against the TCRK, undermining not only Korea's efforts to emerge as a leading nation on the international stage, but also
Japan's efforts to at last face its own dark chapters regarding Korea.

Every voice should be heard in the process : as reminded yesterday, that is the essence of democracy. It is not an easy task but there is no other way. The choice is simple : unity or division, reconciliation or hatred, healing or suffering, more democracy or less democracy. And it's binary : not doing anything, letting time pass and tensions rise is equivalent to killing transitional justice altogether.

So the pressure is certainly not on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but on the Korean government, who is compelled to give it a total support. By the end of TRCK's mandate, the world will have an answer : either Korea decides to become a model for Asia, or its rulers decide to cast shame upon themselves.

Blogules 2009 (initially published on Seoul Village - Truth and Reconciliation : which model for Korea ?

* "The Global Trend of Past Settlement and the Task of Korea to Build National Reconciliation" (20091027) :
Opening Remarks (AHN Byung-ook, President, TRCK)
1. The Justice Balance: When Transitional Justice Improves Human Rights and Democracy (Presentation by Dr. Leigh PAYNE, Professor of Sociology, Oxford University - Questions from AHN Kyong-whan, Professor, SNU and former President of Naitonal Human Rights Commission of Korea)
2. Rwanda Genocide, United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and Lessons from Rwanda and Africa (Presentation by Judge PARK Seon-ki, ITCR - Questions from LEE Suk-tae, Lawyer, Duk Su Law Office)
3. Achievements and Tasks in confronting the Past in Peru and Latin America (Presentation by Dr. Salomon LERNER FEBRES, Rector Emerito, Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Peru and former President of the TRC in Peru - Questions from PARK Koo-byoung, Professor, Ajou University)
4. Will remembrance of National Socialist Crimes never end ? Meaning, tasks, and societal role of the Foundation 'Remembrance, Responsibility and Future' (Presentation by Dr. Martin SALM, Chairman of the Board of Directors, EVZ - Questions from SONG Chung-ki, Professor, Kongju National University)
Wrap up session : Evaluation and Proposal for the Past Settlement of Korea

** see "
President Lee, keep digging" followed by "A Common History".


ReOpenReOpenReOpen911 - the Pentagony continues

I'm still being harrassed by self proclaimed "Truthers" (see "9/11 Truthers Knockin' At Your Door"). These guys are at the same time very stubborn and very inconsistent : after all these years you would think they eventually found their own "official version" but it keeps changing, moving from one hot air bubble to another.

I tried to figure out their non-euclidian-non-darwinian versioning path for the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, and It goes like this :

1. Nothing happened on September the 11th, 2001 at the Pentagon.
2. Witnesses and cameras did see a plane crash on the Pentagon, causing a major explosion, but they were all victims of an optical illusion.
3. Plane debris and passenger bodies were found, but they actually were material sent from Hollywood - probably stuff from the Weinstein brothers or that Katzenberg guy, I guess...
4. Right. There WAS an explosion but it was caused by a missile. There NEVER was any plane that day in the vicinity of the Pentagon.
5. To be more accurate, there was not ONE plane but TWO : besides the Boeing, a military aircraft shot the missile.
6. No one testified for the military plane ? Precisely ! It definitely proves the DoD did it : stealth aircrafts have their fingerprints all over' em.
7. Granted, there was a Boeing, and it gave the illusion that it crashed on the Pentagon, but that was a hologram.
8. The CIA hired David Copperfield on that one. He never succeeded in large scale mass illusions, and the sky was totally cloudless that day, but this miraculous hologram establishes the superiority of US innovation. The sound hologram was particularly spectacular.
9. Still not convinced ? I'll play it again, then : the plane did exist and did crash on the Pentagon. Happy now ? What you don't get is that it was a drone remotely operated like a missile. You see, doesn't everything fit ?
10. The 9/11 victims ? They never existed. Or rather : 125 names were picked in the DoD files, 64 among passengers and crew having used American Airlines 77 between September 1991 and August. They all died or disappeared under strange circumstances within hours after the so called attack on the Pentagon.
11. We're getting closer now. To wrap it up : flight American Airlines 77 did take off, with these 64 people on board. But it never landed, because its GPS went berserk : programmed to crash on WTC 7, the plane eventually destroyed the AZF factory near Toulouse, France, on September 21.
12. Anyway, the probability for these very 64 people to meet that very day in this very plane and in this very place is close to zero, so this flight simply cannot have existed. By the way, prove me that God never existed if you dare.
13. The Pentagon doesn't exist. It's a hologram.
14. The United States of America are a hologram created by the KGB.
15. Barack Obama is a hologram remotely operated by Lyndon LaRouche.
16. I'm a hologram programed to reopen each time I'm sent back the image of my own vacuity.

blogules 2009 - see the original on blogules in French ("Truthers : la Pentagonnade continue"), not this mere hologramme


As if

The Dow Jones Industrial hit the 10k mark, again.

This is not the same index : General Motors or Citigroup Incorporated have gone after September 2008 (AIG left the DJI a little bit earlier). And this is not the same Bank Of America either...
So basically a makeshift index passes a symbolic mark. So what ? This new bubble is simply not sustainable. And Mr Jones cannot make much dough out of industries which often have yet to evolve.

Asia is booming, again.

And real estate bubbles keep inflating in South Korea, Hong Kong, or China. Hu Jintao wants to secure positions for his friends before the 2012 regime reshuffle, and Beijing decided to sacrifice long term economic soundness for short term growth. Seoul also refuses to deflate the housing bubble for fear of accelerating the second dip. LEE Myung-bak knows the demand will grow during the construction of all programs launched before 2008, but hopes that the hard landing will not happen under his "sit and watch".

Financial institutions are racking up profits, again.

Part of their garbage has been collected, but they keep doing business as usual : destroying value in the long term to maximize short term gains, focusing innovation on ways of bending laws, sucking money from places where investments are really needed. Total crap.


Three years after the downturn, one year after The Crisis, we are somehow still in denial (see "
This is not a financial crisis"), and the same diagnosis applies.

There's still a lot of greedy money out there : unable to find exciting guaranteed returns (closer to 5% than to the 15-20% they were used to - not enough to hedge inflation which is bound to come back with a vengence), investors keep fueling bubbles in stocks, commodities, gold, currencies, private equities, and even real estate.

Regulation remains a dirty word and everything is done to undermine collective and comprehensive efforts to reform the system.

The question is not if but when the next wake up call comes. Before the end of the year ? H1 2010 ? Will the illusion even last until 2011 ? Will everything collapse big time in 2012 ?

Yet I'm still confident :
in the long term, we are to evolve from free market to fair market.

blogules 2009


Change has come to Japan.

Change has eventually come to Japan.

The country decided to face its own past, and to reach for its neighbors in a joint effort to restore tragic facts as parts of a common history : confirming the hopes raised by Hatoyama's election, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada called for joint history text books between Japan, China, and Korea*, and revived the courageous position of former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who apologied for "damage and suffering" under colonial rule, called for an end to nationalism, and urged fellow Japanese citizens to face their own past.

Indeed, the time has come to set the record straight, and to silence for good ultra-nationalists from all sides, particularly after years of incessant provocations**.

From all sides ? Very much like Obama's speeches denouncing choices made by his predecessor sucked arguments out of warmongers overseas as well as in the US, Japan's call for justice upon itself will expose the impostors who needed such provocations to fuel their own nationalist agendas.

If China is more than eager to cope with say the Nanking Massacre, I'm not sure Beijing regime is willing to abandon its own outright revisionist programs : English scholars recently mocked at China's attempts of claiming (or rather "
hanschlussing") Goguryeo civilization : as if England decided to claim Germany !

Korea itself hasn't yet fully come to terms with its own darkest moments but keeps, as it should, investigating and correcting past wrongdoings.

Yet, not everybody is happy with this, and diehard nationalists keep lobbying against the Truth and Reconciliation Commission***. Doing so, they are actually undermining the nation's efforts to emerge as a great nation on the international stage. Because contrary to what they pretend, more revelations won't bring shame but only pride, respect and praise from other nations.

As a French citizen, I've always felt at the same time an immense respect for Germany and the way post-WWII generations were educated about Nazi atrocities, and ashamed by how late France started admitting its own contributions to the genocide, or its wrongdoings as a colonial power.

As a country accepts its past weaknesses, it strengthens itself for the future, and sends the best message to its youth and to the world. A nation respecting lessons from history is a great and future proof nation.

As it welcomes an invitation for truth and reconciliation from Japan, Korea needs to support its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission more than ever.

And together, Korea and Japan must send the best message to the region and to the world, as role models for a new, peaceful Asia.

blogules 2009

see also "
A Common History" on Seoul Village

* see "
Japanese foreign minister suggests joint history texts" (JoongAng Daily 20091009)
** see too many previous blogules on Japan and China.
*** on Seoul Village : "
President Lee, please keep digging".

ADDENDUM 20091012
This post was published in JoongAng Ilbo today under the title "Japan may face its history"
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