The main purpose of the "Basic Law on Clarifying the Truth and Reconciliation" is to "reinvestigate anti-Japanese campaigns under Japanese colonial rule or cases that were fabricated or covered up during the military dictatorships. As can be seen in the goal set for that law, many a political affair was fabricated and covered up during decades of dictatorship. The prosecution and the court system often played the role lady in waiting in those activities. That is why you shouldn't look at inquiries into incidents from the past within the framework of the establishment of the time.
Regrettably there are instances where that is exactly the problem. A classic example would be the pursuit of "restoration of honor" for Jo Bong Am. The law excludes from investigation cases where guilty verdicts were handed down by the Supreme Court. Jo was not included in the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs decision to recognize 47 socialist independence fighters on Liberation Day (August 15) this year.
Jo was part of the Ganghwa Island March First Independence Campaign and he engaged in anti-Japanese activities in China, for which he was jailed many times. After liberation he pursued farmland reform as the country's first agriculture minister, and after he became speaker of the National Assembly he ran in the country's second and third presidential elections, challenging president Rhee Syngman's calls for "unification through anti-communism and marching Northward" with a platform for "peaceful unification." Rhee felt threatened during the 1956 presidential election, and when it was over he fabricated espionage charges and had Jo executed. People involved in the case and the judge in the first trial testify to the fact that it was the targeted killing of a political enemy. Conservative politicians like Jang Taek Sang even campaigned to have him spared. In 1991 some 86 members of the ruling and opposition parties at the time, including Democratic Liberal Party (DLP) supreme council members Kim Young Sam, Kim Jong Pil, and Park Tae Jun as well as joint Democratic Party chairman Kim Dae Jung and Lee Ki Taek all submitted a petition to the National Assembly calling for posthumous amnesty and "restoration of rights" for Jo.
It is not right to approach clarifying unanswered cases from the past by avoiding Jo Bong Am, something that clearly neglects the truth.
The Hankyoreh, 13 August 2005.
[Translations by Seoul Selection