Talking about Transitional Justice in Asia, Meeting The ASAN Institute for Policy Studies.

Posted by: Elizabeth Rhoads

8th December 2014

Talking about Transitional Justice in Asia, Meeting The ASAN Institute for Policy Studies.
By Anja Mihr
On 18 November,  the two ORA team members, Dr. Anja Mihr and Dr. Malini Laxminarayan from The Hague Institute during their field trip in South Korea meet Dr. Shin Chang-Hoon, the Director of the Center for Global Governance, International Law and Conflict Resolution at the ASAN in Seoul, South Korea (www.asaninst.org)  to discuss Transitional Justice in the Korean peninsula with an international perspective.
During this meeting, the team discussed Transitional Justice processes in Europe and in Korea since WWII. In South Korea, Transitional Justice focuses on dealing with the multiple legacies of the violence in the 20th century, e.g. the aftermath of WWII or the Japanese colonization of Korea. Furthermore, Dr. Shin emphasized the difficulties for Transitional Justice and democratization on the peninsula, which arose after the Korean war in 1953.  Dr. Shin explained that the democratic movements had faced complications since the 1960s  due to decades of violence, mistrust, occupation and military suppressions. Only in 1987, after the thorough democratization process and major legal and political reforms did the country come to terms with its past. It did so by using legal, historical and political transitional justice measures. These measures were most successful under the progressive governments, during which former political prisoners and many other WWII victims, such as the ‘comfort women’, started raising their voices for compensations and legal acknowledgement. (For further ORA team member commentary on this issue, see:  http://thehagueinstituteforglobaljustice.org/index.php?page=Commentary-Commentary_Articles-Recent_Commentary-Justice_for_Victims_of_Sexual_Violence:_The_Ongoing_Controversies_Surrounding_Comfort_Women&pid=176&id=317)
Nevertheless true lessons still remained to be learned. The South Korean-Japanese relationships, is in dire need of clear fact-finding missions (history commission) that are not politicized.  Dr. Mihr  highlight the fact that in Europe, after WWII and after the end of the communist regimes, it took decades to reconcile and to come to legal and historical terms with its past. Part of the burden falls on the international community to provide incentives and do undergo monitoring, this role can be played by international organizations, such as the Council of Europe or European Union, and by victims groups and civil society through a bottom-up approach. Only if all level of society, international, national and civil one, can transitional justice leverage the quality of democracy and prevent new conflicts. This meeting was part of The Hague Institute’s Rule of Law Program work on Transitional Justice in collaboration with the ORA research project on Transitional Justice and Democratic Institution Building (www.tjdi.org )