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[Op-Ed] Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Posted December. 12, 2008 17:24,   


Quasi-government commissions, if operated as planned, can help bring social harmony and enhance administrative efficiency by fine-tuning complicated agenda the government cannot directly intervene in to avoid potential conflicts of interest. A slew of commissions were founded under the Roh Moo-hyun administration. Among them, the most prominent was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Author Jo Yeong-gi said in his book “Analysis of Main Commission Personnel under the Roh Moo-hyun Administration” that the setup of various commissions was a strategy to change the social mainstream to secure the political ideological initiative.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission contributed to correcting past wrongs by unveiling hidden truths. Other commissions, however, wasted time and energy on unproductive ideological conflicts, denying the national identity and deepening social conflict. A huge amount of tax money was used for their activities. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (and its subgroups) reportedly had a payroll of 43.7 billion won (30.1 million U.S. dollars) for 1,268 employees. The Public Administration and Security Ministry has 2,853 employees, including one minister and two deputy ministers, but the commission has 241 employees, with one minister-level commissioner and three deputy ministers as standing commission members.

Quite a few commission members were entrusted by civic groups that enjoyed cozy relations with the former administration, yet lacked expertise in investigations. In the case of the Presidential Truth Committee on Suspicious Deaths, which used up about five billion won (3.45 million dollars) a year, 33 of its 44 civic members had no professional experience except for their participation in civic groups. Nonetheless, each member received an average annual salary of 34.74 million won (23,990 dollars) for dealing with 1.89 incidents a year. If the surviving families of victims of suspicious death file petitions, the terms of the commission members could be extended. In the interest of justice and meeting the expectations of the bereaved families, the commission members must sharpen their specialty and expertise.

The standing commission member (deputy-minister level) of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission worked as policy director at the People`s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, which led the anti-U.S. beef candlelight protests. The commission could turn into a giant umbrella group including all subgroups if the Act on the Review of History for Truth and Reconciliation passes. Commissions should not serve as organizations that indiscriminately appoint members and waste tax money. If they are reborn with balanced senses and specialty, they could conduct more reliable and unbiased investigations. The Lee Myung-bak administration should not remain idle in overseeing the commissions that were established under its predecessor.

Editorial Writer Huh Mun-myeong (angelhuh@donga.com)