|Transitional Justice: The May 18 Restless Struggle for Restoration of Dignity and Honor|
|Date : 2019-07-17 Hit : 96|
Itis a very famous quote that “Justice delayed is justice denied” which ismorally appropriate for the victims of the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising.After the massacre of the May 18 Gwangju, Democratic struggle by tyrant Chun DuHwan and his factions believed that this democratic Uprising had been defeated.And it took fifteen years and loss of several precious lives finally in 1993 a judicialcommission investigated about the Gwangju massacre in Korea.
However,this Uprising never lost its momentum, and it frequently appeared after thebrutal crackdown by Chun. The May 18 struggle again appears in shape a youngstudent Park Gwan-hyeon age 29 from Chonnam National University who went onhunger strike for 40 days and died in Gwangju prison in 1982 to call for aninvestigation about the truth of the Gwangju Democratic Uprising.
TheGwangju Democratic Uprising blazed when a young labourer Pyo Jeong-du who was a25-year-old who set himself on fire and died in 1987 to urging for thepunishment of those accountable for the Gwangju massacre.
TheGwangju Democratic Movement appeared when a young student Cho Seong-man age 24from Seoul National University who sacrificed his life from the MyeongdongCathedral in 1988 to call for the ascertainment of the truth about the Gwangjumassacre.
TheGwangju Democratic Movement raged when a young student Park Rae-jeon age 25from Soongsil University who done self-immolation and roared that “Gwangju isalive” in 1988.
Theseyoung souls who sacrificed their lives they never meet and knows the May 18martyrs of Gwangju, but certainly they embraced the truth of the May 18Uprising. The roared, blazed and resisted by these young people set the historyand pushed many people to think about the justice for the victims of GwangjuDemocratic Uprising. For a minute, imagine what reasons motivated them tosacrifice their lives and what pain and discomfort they faced when they wereunable to express the truth about the Uprising. The road for justice was not asmooth path for these souls, but it was full of thorns. Nevertheless, theysacrificed their precious lives to uncover the truth and justice for theUprising.
Theseyoung souls sacrificed their lives to give reverence to the souls of martyrs ofthe Uprising. They risked their lives to call justice and find the truth. Theyaward their lives because the government neglected and overlooked theirresponsibilities.
Correcting the Pastwith Justice: The Gwangju Massacre, May 18
TheGwangju Democratic Movement is known as the foundation of modern Koreandemocracy. The May 18 Gwangju Democratic Movement played a vibrant role topushed the ghost of military tyrant back to the barracks, but the regimebrutally massacred the Uprising that left hundreds of deaths, thousands werementally and physically injured and tagged with allegations of “Rebels”,“Traitors” and “Red”.
Manydied but never recovered from such allegations. Several, survivors were lived inisolation, and encountered with dishonour remarks on their actions by small fractionof society who believed on tyrant propaganda. However, constant democratisationstruggles from Gwangju to Seoul by students in shape of “June Struggle” finallydefeated the General Chun military regime. The process of civilian rule wasslow and painful in Korea but once it got real momentum in 1993 to 2003 put thefoundation of justice against the military regime and ordinary people unitedagainst the tyrant so, they make him accountable about his inhuman actions didduring his administration.
Thetask of coping with past atrocities started in 1993 with the punishment of twoformer military leaders of General Chun and General Rooh Tae Wooh. In 1995 theSpecial Act Regarding the May 18 Democratization Movement was formed to providejustice to victims and survivors of the Uprising by President Kim Young Samgovernment. It was not an easy task for President Kim Young Sam, who said that“the truth should be reserved for historical judgment in the future”. However,peoples strong resistance and pressured forced President Kim Young to punishthe culprits of the Uprising.
Inlast, General Chun was sentenced to life imprisonment, and General Roh wasimprisoned for seventeen years. Others offenders received prison sentencesranging from three and a half to eight years. According to the Special Act, 24,the civilian and military award decorations were given to the military leaders wasrevoked.
GeneralChun only faced two years imprisonment along with Roh. Both offenders were metwith minor punishment regarding the brutal actions that he did from 1980 to1987 with people of Gwangju and Korea. Nonetheless, under reconciliation gesture“National Harmony”, President Kim Dae Jung pardoned General Chun and GeneralRoh in 1997.
Acknowledging theTransitional Justice: The May 18 Democratic Uprising
Transitionaljustice means taking judicial and non-judicial actions to address the humanrights violations, abuses and atrocities done by past regimes. It includeslegal and customary accountability procedures, truth commission, memorialisationinitiatives, reparation and institutional reform. The purpose of transitionaljustice should be as below:
• Prosecutions and tribunals to holdoffenders of human rights violations accountable.
• Truth Commission and reconciliation toestablish the truth about what happened and why and reconcile relationshipswithin communities.
• Reparations to compensate victims for pastwrongdoings and actions.
• Institutional Reform to restructureinstitutions to stop and halt such atrocities in future.
• Memorialization to remember the events thatoccurred and to honour victims of past violations
• Education to teach future generations aboutwhat occurred to ensure it never happens again.
Prosecutionand tribunal about the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising made reasonableefforts to hold accountable to those officials who were involved in this brutaloffence. I also would like to acknowledge the efforts of the transitionaljustice did by the Korean government that compensated the victims and survivorsof the Uprising. It also made memorialization efforts for the Uprising throughdeclaring May 18 Day as national Memorial Day and constructed the May 18National Cemetery in Gwangju to honouring the fallen citizens during theGwangju massacre. Besides, demolition of the Sangmoo military cantonmentand renovate into Peace Park for the people of Gwangju. Finally, annually the May 18 Day nationallycommemorate widely in Korea.
Moreover,the May 18 Memorial Foundation is internationally promoting the educationmission, and it is annually awarding Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, GwangjuAsia Forum, and awarding the five generous scholarships for international forMaster program in Chonnam National University. It is also providing scholarshipto Korean students, teachers and organising various education program tospreading the May 18 Spirit in Korea and all over the world.
However,along with all these acknowledgements, there is still several serious gaps areremaining which need to highlight about the transitional justice. These seriousgaps are causing defamation and soreness about the Uprising.
NeedTrue Efforts to Enforce the Transitional Justice: Distortion History of the May18 Gwangju Democratic
CanSouth Korea nation and government heal the Gwangju uprising wounds thatannually bleed because of its distortion and defamation? The answer is yes, itcan be healed with mutual respect and full enforcement of transitional justiceprinciples in Korea.
Inthe past, public of Korea and President Kim Dae Jung made these efforts. Hepardoned General Chun under the “National Reconciliation” who known as “butcherof Gwangju”. Besides, his allies and collaborators were forgiven under “norevenge” policy. President Kim Dae Jung strived to unite the community andnation in 1997. The people of Korea are done remarkable efforts planted theseeds of reconciliation and respect in Gwangju and Korea.
However,the few insulars continuously strived to defame the Uprising for their personalgains and interests. Dictatorship and tyrant is an ideology that consistentlyundermines the freedom and liberty of the people. This ideology always remainedprevail in the people who love power, oppression and want to rule on thepeople. Such people always stand against freedom, human rights and democracy todivide the people’s opinion for their personal gains.
Therefore,it is important that under the transitional justice government of Korea shoulddevelop new legal law that addresses the unique challenges like defamation thatis damaging honor of the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising. The nation shouldstand and asked the government that it should develop new constitutional andjudicial laws that protects the history, sentiments and honour of the May 18Gwangju Democratic Uprising from such insulars.
ThePresident Moon Jae-in made his constructive efforts to own the Uprising and puta halt during his speech on the 39th anniversary of the May 18 Uprising andurged the nation to end the ideological rift over this historical event whichbrought democracy in Korea. But again a small fraction of insulars are unableto understand the broader wisdom and undermining his efforts.
However,it is highly crucial that democratic political parties’ leadership should unitetogether and promote democratisation values and support this action. It isessential to understand that through the sacrifices made by the May 18democratic souls enabled Korea to end the authoritarianism. There precioussacrificed enabled the civilian to serve the country. Therefore, it is highlysignificant that the Korean nation should use collective wisdom and unitagainst such narrow-minded elements, which are planting seeds of hate for theirpersonal interests in the country.
Consequently,it is essential that people of Korea should reject such parties and people whoare pushing them towards hate and who are involved in the defamation of the May18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising. Finally, people of Korea should unite andethically promote the Korean government to develop new judicial law for thetransitional justice that protects the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprisinghistory from distortion and defamation.
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