[NOTEBOOK]Choose investigators carefullyThe Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths has become the center of sensitive and grave social conflicts.
The first controversy was over the commission’s recognition of former North Korean spies and long-term political prisoners as “democratic movement” activists. Fiercer is the second controversy over the background of some investigators.
An announcement that categorized the deaths of the spies as suspicious also said, “Related authorities’ non-cooperation prevented the commission from getting the entire picture,” calling the Ministry of Unification an uncooperative agency.
The story goes like this: To investigate a case in which North Korean spies died in the conversion operations led by the Central Intelligence Agency, the investigators of the commission applied to visit North Korea, saying that they would investigate six prisoners who were repatriated to the North in 2000 after serving long sentences refusing to convert.
But the ministry did not give permission, saying that objective statements were hardly expected from them. As a result, the ministry was called uncooperative.
The announcement contained the entire statements of four long-term prisoners who did not convert and remained in South Korea. It also recorded how three other long-term prisoners had died. The announcement notably used the expression “guys” for CIA agents and jailers and “comrades” for dead prisoners.
It is right to criticize the security agency for using violence in pressing the prisoners to convert, even if they had attempted to overthrow the Republic of Korea. But I wondered if the commission, which publicized the statements containing expressions of hatred toward South Korea, was indeed a national organization.
I also wondered how such a thing could happen and what kind of people are in the commission. My curiosity was satisfied a few days later. It was revealed that those who served sentences on charges of espionage or being a member of the Socialist Workers League of South Korea acted as investigators to probe into suspicious deaths at military units. Another investigator’s record showed that he had been investigated by a military agency for praising North Korea during his military service.
The commission defined these revelations as “ill-intentioned.” Some argued, “What is the problem with having these people, who received amnesty and whose rights were reinstated, work as investigators?”
Is it truly so? Of course, we cannot criticize their entry into public positions or private companies through a legitimate process even if they were investigated for violating the National Security Law. But it makes no sense that those who were investigated by military or security agencies should be investigating those agencies.
An absurd “shift of duty” took place where the examinee of yesterday became the examiner of today. Criminal law has a system of challenging a judge, which is to prohibit a judge from hearing a case with which he has direct or indirect relations. The prosecution has also a system in which an examinee can request the replacement of a prosecutor when it’s clear that the prosecutor can’t conduct a fair investigation. Didn’t the commissioners, some of whom had legal experience, know this? The commission should have been prudent in employing investigators.
The term of the second commission has ended. Politicians’ disputes are fierce over the launch of the third Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths. The focus should be on how to find a way to select commissioners and investigators with the right qualifications. Then disputes over the investigation process will disappear, and all the people will submit to its decisions.
* The writer is the city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Sang-eon