Gov’t let off hook for paying persecution victims

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Gov’t let off hook for paying persecution victims

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the government is not entitled to compensate victims of government persecution if their case lacks evidence even if the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an independent justice body tasked with investigating past wrongdoings committed against citizens, issued an investigation report detailing the crimes involved in the case.

Thursday’s ruling nullified the High Court’s decision that would have required the state to pay up to 88 million won ($78,848) to the family of these victims.

The top court’s decision is groundbreaking. In most cases, the government has been responsible for awarding damages to the victim that was identified and subsequently investigated by the commission.

Still, the Supreme Court stated that the commission’s investigation report doesn’t always back up the legal claims for state restitution, while crediting the body with providing “convincing, significant records.”

The lawsuit was filed by seven civilians, family members of two citizens who were executed during the 1950-53 Korean War at the hands of the government. The two men were part of an estimated 100,000 civilians executed on suspicion of being North Korea sympathizers.

The tragic mass killing, later dubbed the Bodo League Incident, was carried out by the Syngman Rhee administration in the spring of 1950.

The plaintiffs asked the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to look into the case in 2006, claiming that the two men, surnamed Park and Gwak, were falsely accused by the former government.

The commission concluded that the two men were unfairly killed, which later served as significant evidence for the lower court to make a ruling.

The Supreme Court, however, stated that “We can’t consider all those involved in the [Bodo League] incident as victims without thoroughly identifying the reliability [of records submitted by the plaintiffs].”

Yet, four judges out 14 at the Supreme Court expressed their objection toward the ruling, stating that “the government is responsible for compensating the victims who were persecuted in the past.”

“Collecting solid evidence for past events is difficult. Therefore, the government should offer compensation if there is no strong counter evidence against doing so.”

So far, the top court ruled in favor of the victims of a past event that claimed many lives at the hands of the state when the committee provided an investigation report on the case.

But the government, especially when a conservative administration is in charge, has maintained that the court system should further evaluate the relevance and reliability of reports provided by the commission.


By Park Eun-jee [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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