KIGALI - The president of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Korea (TRCK), Dr. Ahn, Byung-Ook, has commended the efforts by the Rwandan government to reconcile its citizens after the 1994 Genocide.
Byung-Ook said this after touring the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre together with his delegation where he described the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi as ‘a great shock’.
“I have seen how painful it was here in Rwanda in 1994, and how you are trying to reconcile just fifteen years after the Genocide,” Byung-Ook told The New Times outside the memorial hall.
He added that Rwanda was so much ahead of South Korea as far as the reconciliation process is concerned.
“You are far ahead of us as far as reconciliation is concerned, just fifteen years after the tragic events you have progressed up to this extent and yet for us after over fifty years we have just started investigations into the mass murders that happened in our country.
At the outbreak of the Korean War, South Korean authorities secretively executed, usually without legal process, tens of thousands of southern leftists and others rightly or wrongly identified as sympathizers.
The events were hardly hidden, but they became a “public secret,” barely whispered about through four decades of right-wing dictatorship in South Korea.
According to Dr. Byung-Ook, the (TRCK) was established in December 2005 to clear up past incidents for truth and reconciliation in his country.
The main objective of the commission is to investigate the past incidents such as anti-Japanese independence movements during the Japanese occupation of Korea and mass illegal victimisation of civilians from 1945, up to the end of the authoritarian regimes.
Speaking at the round table meeting at the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) offices, the president of the commission, Jean Baptiste Habyarimana, told the visiting delegation how the commission has gone about the task of uniting Rwandans since it was created in 1999.
“The commission was created to build not only Rwanda, but to also help heal a country that had gone through a lot,” said Habyarimana.
He also told the guests that the reconciliation process has been possible because the government’s first priority was to reconcile the Rwandan people.
Dr. Byung-Ook also said that the experience they had seen in Rwanda was going to help them to use it as reference in their work of solving the long standing problem at home.
“It is going to help us use this as reference for our future work despite the fact that we are yet to venture into the reconciliation process,” he said.
Unlike in Rwanda where the Genocide was carried out along ethnic lines, in southern Korea, the mass killings were political in nature.