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Compensation for North’s War Victims?

Posted December. 02, 2005 07:02,   


Controversy is expected as the government and the ruling party are considering including North Korean civilian victims of the U.S during the Korean War as subjects of their Past Injustices Investigation and as possible compensation recipients.

In a report from the government and the ruling party`s special commission for truth and reconciliation obtained exclusively by Dong-A Ilbo, civilians who were victimized by America`s scorched-earth strategy across North Korea were named as possible compensation recipients under the Past Injustices Investigation.

The report, which was submitted to the government’s policy committee on November 30, shows that civilians victimized by South Korean troops, civilians victimized by North Korean forces as well as partisans, and North Korean civilian victims of U.S soldiers may all be eligible for compensation under the general premise that they are all civilian victims of the Korean War.

This material mentioned that there exists the opinion that South Korean civilian victims of the North should be excluded on the grounds that they were not harmed by direct national authority, but the material made no mention of North Korean victims of the U.S.

But experts are pointing out that it is wrong to try to define the damage of civilians, which is sometimes unavoidable when launching massive air raids against an enemy’s bases during a war, as damages caused by national crimes or abuse of authorities, and to compensate them.

At the time, U.S. forces controlled South Korean troops in strategy at the request of then-South Korean President Lee Seung-man.

“The phrase itself could be controversial,” says an official with the Ministry of Government Affairs and Home Affairs. “It is just meant to introduce various academic opinions to the scope of the Korean War victim compensation.”

An official from the ruling party said, “The North Korean civilian victims by the U.S. were not discussed in the government and the ruling party meeting. In this case, however, I think it is possible to build just a memorial tower.”

The report also took examples such as 300,000 people involved in the report union cases, 20,000 detainees in prisons, and an unspecific number of people suspected of favoring Communism by preliminary custody as the victims by South Korean soldiers.

With the question about the possibility of investigating the unspecified majority of victims, concerns come that the launch of the investigation could result in reviving the old conflict between the right and left wings during the war.

An official of the political community pointed out, “When the past history investigation goes this way, it could cause the social conflict to become widespread across the nation and eventually to take root.”

The paper suggested that a symbolic restoration of honor like building a memorial tower should be made through truth probe rather than individual compensation for the Korean War victims. Individual compensation is not feasible since it could cost up to one hundred trillion won.

The government and the ruling party, however, are fully considering compensating victims by abuse of authorities during the period of authoritarianism, not the war, individually for each specific case with enacting various special laws.

In-Jik Cho cij1999@donga.com