Revising historyThe draft bill for the review of the democratization movement was brought to the table by the Committee on Public Administration and Safety in the National Assembly last Thursday - 284 days after it was submitted by Grand National Party lawmaker Chun Yu-ok.
Since the Act on the Honor Restoration and Compensation to Persons Related to Democratization Movements was enacted in 2000, a large number of accidents under authoritarian rule have been reinterpreted.
We have a natural duty to restore the honor of those who sacrificed their lives for the cause of democratization and provide just compensation. However, many controversies have cropped up on certain decisions, and some say that the facts have been distorted.
It is therefore right to open a new avenue for correcting serious factual errors in this area. Although the procedure for review exists under current law, it is too complicated.
Only interested parties who file an application as a “man of merit for national democratization” are entitled to make a request for a review. At the same time, the period for requesting a review is just 30 days.
Many people have suffered damage from these decisions so far, but they had no other means to file an objection. The “Chun Yu-ok Act” expanded the scope of review to damaged third parties, otherwise known as “contracting parties.” In addition, it extended the term for requesting a review from 30 days to 10 years to correct any factual errors over the past decade.
A major controversial case involves Dong-eui University. Students who staged a sit-down demonstration in 1989 held five police officers hostage and set fire to those who came to save them, resulting in the deaths of seven officers. Although it had nothing to do with democratization, 46 people were characterized as democratization activists.
If the police officers who saved their kidnapped peers are recorded in history as public enemies, they will have been victimized.
In another case, a labor dispute in a coal mine in Gangwon Province in 1980 led to anarchy. Those leading the actions were judged as men of merit for democratization despite their wrongful deeds, which included torture and sexual violence. In such a case, then, is the injured party an anti-democratization criminal?
It is never desirable to change our conception of history every time there’s a new political regime. However, we should open up an avenue for correcting the erroneous decisions that were influenced by specific regimes or ideologies by resorting to historic truth and sound common sense.