- On Wed., South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) reported that past military governments were responsible for human rights abuses at the state-funded Brothers Home facility from the 1960s to 1980s.
- This comes 35 years after the case came to light, when a prosecutor first exposed the atrocities in the infamous facility in Busan.
- The TRC said that “direct and indirect exercises of government authority” legitimated the arbitrary detention of people designated as “vagrants” and led to the attempted cover-up of multiple rights violations.
- Roughly 38K people are believed to have been confined arbitrarily at the now-defunct Brothers Home from 1975 to 1986.
- After analyzing documents from police, prosecutors, and courts, as well as the facility’s own files, the commission found that at least 657 deaths had occurred — a significantly higher figure than the previous count of 513.
- To date, no one has been held accountable for the atrocities at Brothers. Though non-binding, the recommendations of the TRC could be used by survivors seeking damages in any potential lawsuits.
- Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by CNN. The fact that this news has only just come out shows that the government knew of and ignored these human rights abuses long after Brothers closed and the dictatorships fell. The government should not just apologize, but also be forced to compensate any and all victims of this tragedy.
- Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by The New York Times. This is a first and important step in forcing the South Korean government to take responsibility for vast human rights abuses carried out by authorities. Though the past can’t be changed, Seoul is showing that it’s ready to work with and for the victims as quickly as possible, so that they can finally see the justice they deserve.
- Cynical narrative as provided by The Conversation. Unfortunately, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions don’t always deliver justice. Forcing victims, who have often moved on with their lives, to relive and “reconcile” wrongs can sometimes lead to amnesties at the cost of mental well-being. Governments have also been known to cynically use such commissions to assert their legitimacy by suggesting they’ve dealt with a painful past. We will have to wait and see what comes of this investigation’s results.