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[Opinion] Truths Differing from One Another

Posted August. 01, 2004 22:36,   


Even though more than 10 days have passed since the second verdict on Song Doo-yul, the controversy surrounding this case continues. For example, the Internet site donga.com is now conducting a poll asking whether the verdict of the appellate court is appropriate or not, and more than 10,000 people are said to have participated. It is natural that the general public feels confused, as the first and second verdicts gave different decisions regarding the same question, “Is Song Doo-yul a member of the Politburo of the North Korean Worker’s Party?” It is hardly distinguishable which is the truth, as the second trial court judged there is no evidence about the case that the court of original judgment acknowledge as a fact.

As a matter of fact, it is very difficult to uncover the truth in a trial under men’s charges, and it often occurs that contrary conclusions are formed in accordance with the different situations and conditions. For example, several years ago in the U.S., in trials where the American football star O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife, he was given a verdict of not guilty in a criminal trial, but he had to pay a large indemnity in a civil trial. At that time, public criticism was rampant that Simpson had taken advantage of the racial divide between black and white in the criminal trial, and that he was given a verdict of not guilty owing to the great lawyer he hired with a huge amount of money.

Regarding knowledge in natural science, recognized as universal truth admissible in court, there are now voices doubting its objectivity. A group of sociologists who have promoted the theory of “social formation of scientific knowledge” since the 1970s are asserting that scientific knowledge is not a universal truth acquired by objective observation, but only a creature of social negotiations and agreements among scientists. Of course, most scientists reject this assertion, but it seems voices doubting objectivity and universality aren’t dwindling.

Political confrontation between the ruling and the opposition party is ongoing concerning matters of revealing the truth of the past, including the investigations into pro-Japanese activities and the mysterious deaths reinvestigation. When the objectivity of scientific principles established through countless experiments are doubted, it seems more than a little difficult to reveal the truth of the cases that happened several decades ago, on which opinions have been split from the beginning. Finally, each person may see different truths.

Oh Se-jung, guest editor, Seoul National University physics professor