[EDITORIALS]A fair approach to historyThe Committee to Settle the Past History for Truth and Reconciliation begins its official duty Thursday. Reverend Peter Song Gi-in has been named to head the committee, and the selection of 15 committee members is in its final stage.
The committee has the responsibility of reviewing about 100 years of history from the Japanese colonial government to the term of former President Roh Tae-woo. The committee will begin its four-year term when it starts investigating its first case. As the panel’s term can be extended for two more years, it may continue to function beyond 2010.
We have already pointed out the problems with the committee, from the time Reverend Song was nominated as the head. The membership selection is concentrated in a specific region. Plus, Reverend Song is well known as the mentor of President Roh Moo-hyun and we consider it inappropriate for him to head the committee.
In particular, Reverend Song has made a series of remarks that reflect his bias over Korea’s modern history. He has made ideologically biased comments, such as “North and South Korea must cooperate first, in order to remove from the peninsula the U.S. Army, which is an obstacle to unification.”
Another problem of the committee is that the government recommended eight of its 15 members, who are all politically liberal.
We don’t have to quote E. H. Carr’s definition of history as “perpetual dialogue between the present and the past.” History depends on each historian’s interpretation of the past facts. In other words, past facts can be freely manipulated according to the historian. This is the very reason that the committee concerns us.
When the committee recklessly digs up the past, with a biased ideology and wrong standard of values, the orthodox identity of the nation can be stirred up from its very roots.
The activity of the committee must stay true to its name, focused on the truth and reconciliation. If it tries to overturn history to settle its own past grudges, it will only fail to win public recognition. If a government tries to rewrite history as it likes whenever the nation sees a change of power, it will only lead to a waste of national power.
Therefore, an academic approach is needed, rather than political approaches, and once the committee begins its job, it has to do it perfectly, so that there is no more controversy over historical issues from now on. The committee must exclude any outside influence, political or ideological, completely.