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∙ Current position: Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher, Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
∙ Ph.D. dissertation Neighborhood Shopkeepers in Contemporary South Korea: Household, Work, and Locality available online (E-Thesis publications a the University of Helsinki). For printed copies, please contact me by e-mail.
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Friday, March 19, 2004

Truth Commission and those not the democracy movement

Oranckay tells that in the case of professor Tsche Chong-Kil (Ch'oe Chong-gil), petition no 7 at the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths, the former member of the intelligence (or surveillance) agency has told the courts that prof. Tsche was tortured to death, as many have been thinking from the start.

A while ago, when going through my notes from discussions with a hairdressing shop keeper, I remembered that her brother-in-law had died in coma in a hospital after being beaten by a police in the mid 80s. They had waged a long court battle back then and finally managed to have the police sentenced. I did some googling with the names, and there was actually quite a lot of info of the case available, also the resolution of the Presidential Truth Commission, to which they had placed a petition after the commission was established in 2000. They wanted a more thorough investigation on what they saw as an organized cover-up from the part of the police (가해자가 축소되는 등 경찰들의 조직적인 사건 축소, 은폐 등이 확실하게 규명되지 않아 철저한 진상규명을 요구함).
The Commission dismissed (kigak) the case on the grounds that even though the death had been a result of illegal use of authority, it cannot be seen resulting from activity associated with democracy movement. There is no way to prove that there was any other policemen involved except for the one sentenced, and there was also no evidence that the deceased person had taken part in the democracy movement. The original sentence of the police had been confirmed in the Supreme Court, and they had been paid compensation.
5. 결론. 그렇다면 김상원은 공권력의 위법한 행사로 인하여 사망하였다고 인정되나 민주화 운동과 관련하여 사망하였다고는 할 수 없으므로 이 사건 진상을 공표하기로 하여 주문과 같이 결정한다.
주 문. 이 사건 진정을 기각한다.
Reading the decision, it seems that had he only taken part in the demonstration, it would have been a different case, but the basis of his arrest at the time was given as resistance to the police at a check-up (kômmun). Other sources on the net present the case so that he had been taking part in political activity. Well, at least his death made his sister-in-law politically active and conscious, "demonstrated and waved my fist, carrying one daughter on the back and the other on the front." But now she's busy keeping the shop and making money for her daughters' school expenses.
  • Functions and powers of the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths.

    I'm not giving a link to the case resolution neither to any other info on the case, even though there's very small chance that any of this would lead to the identification of this hairdresser woman, but she didn't intend this to be public, and especially in a politically quite conservative neighborhood with eye-to-eye everyday contacts, she has always kept silent about her own political leanings and the past of her family.

    無名 美容室As visitors surely already have noticed, I have a special place in my heart for women like her. I like them in their self-respect and openness. It may all seem to come up to the fact that they've been very helpful for my study - that also, but there was also the fact that as far as I'm concerned they had little status pretentions, and it was easy to talk with them. (Being a non-Korean also helped in being less bound with the status/class considerations.)
    There was this pharmacy keeping woman to whom I was introduced and who seemingly disapproved that I even dared to think of her as a research subject, along with these shopkeepers. So I understood I was not welcome to hang out there any more. (That's often a sore spot for pharmacists, afraid of being taken as businesskeepers (changsakkun) instead of professional university graduates.)