[EDITORIALS]Getting to the truth

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[EDITORIALS]Getting to the truth

The Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths has concluded that Tsche Chong-kil, a Seoul National University professor who died in 1973 during an interrogation by the national intelligence agency on suspicion of espionage, died under "unlawful exercise of government power." We are relieved that the government has finally straightened out a past wrong committed by law enforcement authorities and concealed for nearly 30 years.

The commission could not produce hard evidence that Mr. Tsche was killed by interrogators. But it verified that the agency's interrogators tortured him and the cause of his death had to do with the government's power. In 1973, it was announced that Mr. Tsche committed suicide. Through an investigation by the commission, such circumstantial evidence as a cover-up of torture by the agency's agents, the forgery of documents and records of the investigation, the use of false witnesses and the attempts to destroy evidence were disclosed, indicating a suspicion of murder. The judgment of the commission that excessive torture, insults and threats could have caused the death of Mr. Tsche, not to mention that he was murdered by torture and that his body was thrown from a window, is reasonable. The commission made progress under a difficult situation, considering that the death took place a long time ago and two witnesses have refused to cooperate.

The commission has a long way to go. Since its launching in October 2000, it has been asked to investigate the cause of 83 deaths caused under authoritarian regimes. So far, it has completed investigations in 16 deaths. Since the commission is authorized to investigate only till Sept. 16, it is said that the police, military and intelligence agency, which are accused in the death investigations, delay cooperating with the the commission. It is time for the government to take measures so that unfortunate wrongdoings of the past are straightened out.

Clarifying what was wrong in the past will prevent similar mistakes from being repeated. But the authorities as well as individuals involved in suspicious deaths are not willing to repent. A legal provision that exempts a statute of limitations for the prosecution on inhumane state crimes is worth considering.
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