[ROSTRUM]Democracy campaign damages dueIt has been two years and nine months since the Act on the Restoration of Honor and Com-pensation to Persons Related to the Democratization Move-ments was established. It has also been two years since a committee to compensate those involved in the democratization movement was formed.
Still, not a single person has received monetary compensation because the law revealed several flaws upon implementation. Now an amendment is on the way.
The biggest problem involves a rule that concerns the amount of compensation. The Commission for the Democratization Movement Activists' Honor Restoration and Compensation initially screened those who participated in the movement and decided on the amount of compensation, but it found the criteria unfair and withdrew the process for determining the amount of compensation. Now it is only sorting out the participants.
The current State Compen-sation Act applies to compensation criteria, and in the case of compensation for the victims of the May 18 civil uprising, the criteria are applicable since the victims suffered damage during the same period of time. However, it would be problematic if the movement was set between 1968 and 1990. Due to a rapid increase in monthly wages, the most important factor in determining the amount of compensation has changed to a large degree. A dead victim could receive as much as 30 times more than another person even if both were the same age or had the same career, which means a victim could receive a minimum of 9 million won ($7,400) or a maximum of 200 million won.
It would be wise if the candidates' qualifications for compensation and the amount of payment were determined together.
The martyrs who gave their lives when they were young can not be evaluated in monetary terms. But reality demands that compensation criteria be reviewed thoroughly and fairly, considering the criterion for the May 18 uprising victims and others who contributed to the nation.
The current Act on the Restoration of Honor and Compensation states that those who died or those who are missing or were injured or disabled as part of the movement are qualified for compensation.
Ten percent of 11,000 applicants actually seek compensation. But less than half of that 10 percent were recognized of their contribution to the democratization movement. Thus about 550 applicants are qualified for compensation. Among them, 120 people were dead and 230 are sick or disabled.
The amendment seeks to expand targets for compensation to those who were arrested, convicted and fired. It also suggests that compensation be given in accordance to the degree of sacrifice regardless of age and income level.
Many people would agree that the degree of sacrifice should be taken into consideration when determining the amount of payment.
However, there are dissenting views among the general public and inside the Commission for the Democratization Movement Activists' Honor Restoration and Compensation on the scope of compensation and the amounts to be paid in relation to the different types of sacrifices.
Others pointed out the negative factors associated with too much emphasis on monetary compensation. The compensation policy can seriously compromise the original purpose of the hard-sought efforts to restore honor to the victims. Still others stated the government should make up for the victims' lost income and living conditions and make it clear not to repeat the past mistakes.
The government should immediately amend the Act on the Honor Restoration and Compensation and grant compensation to those who have already been found qualified.
The act, which was seriously maligned when it was first implemented, will then reclaim its status, while victims and their families, who quietly have endured their suffering for a long time, will not be hurt again.
* The writer heads the Commission for the Democratization Movement Activists' Honor Restoration and Compensation.
by Kim Kook-hyun
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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