[EDITORIALS]Truth panel’s ruling is puzzlingThe Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths ruled yesterday that the deaths of three North Korean prisoners in the 1970s who died while under South Korean authorities’ custody were related to a democracy movement.
But to make things more confusing, former members of the commission had said that the three men’s deaths, even though they resulted from the abuse of public power, should not be regarded as part of a struggle for democracy, mainly because they were communists who didn’t support such a system.
We believe it is legitimate to denounce a government that used torture and violence in its attempt to “convert” political prisoners. We also believe it is the duty of a democratic government to find out the truth behind suspicious deaths. But we believe that strict standards are needed to determine whether such deaths are related to a democracy movement.
The three men were North Korean spies. How many can honestly say that North Korean spies are part of a democracy movement?
As the commission said, the freedom of political ideologies and conscience guaranteed by the Constitution is something that cannot be denied to anyone. But it is an overstatement for the commission to say that the three men’s deaths helped South Korea abolish its oppressive system, which released political prisoners only after they renounced their former positions.
What is a democracy movement? A law dealing with the recognition and compensation for democracy activists defines such movement as “an act that contributed to the democratic constitutional order of the nation, and recovered and extended people’s freedom and rights by resisting authoritarian rules that disconcerted fundamental democratic orders and infringed upon people’s basic rights.”
Will people’s rights and freedom be guaranteed if North Korean spies are no longer forced to promise that they will no longer break the law? When a nation has faith in a liberal democratic system, its citizens won’t see North Korean spies’ defense of the North Korean political system as part of a democratization movement.
We worry that the commission’s decision may cause an identity crisis in Korea. We ask that it reconsider.