Lessons from Germany for transitional justice in NK

first_imgNews Image: TJWG Lessons from Germany for transitional justice in NK North Korea tries to accelerate building of walls and fences along border with China By Daily NK – 2015.08.03 5:58pm SHARE Ordinary Pyongyang residents have not received government rations since mid-April News AvatarDaily NKQuestions or comments about this article? Contact us at [email protected] Facebook Twitter RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR News North Korea’s apprehension of citizenswithout due process of law, its systematic political prison camps, and myriadother violations of human rights are gradually gaining more attention from theinternational community. And so, within this social milieu, a group of NGOsconvened to shed light on how to bring about justice for North Korean human rights victims. Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG),National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK), Social Science Korea (SSK)Human Right Forum, and Heart for Korea (HEKO) hosted a joint symposiumentitled, “Transitional Justice Measures in Germany and Crimes Against Humanityin North Korea,” in Seoul on July 28th. This conference sought to devise methods for South Korea and the international community to approach andcombat the systematic violation of human rights by North Korean securityentities. At the forefront of discussions taking place at theconference was the topic of Germany’s treatment of the legacies of human rightsabuses committed by former East German policing organs. Upon reunification of the country, West Germany extended relative tolerance to human rightsperpetrators of East Germany; this tolerance was ascribed to what was deemed as patentrepentance on the part of the former governing party of East Germany, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).“The Ministry for State Security of EastGermany had committed a multitude of human rights violations; however, only ahandful of commanders were punished while lower-ranking officers who simply followedsuperiors’ commands were pardoned,” Park Sang Bong, the head of GermanReunification Research Institute, explained at the event. Daily NK followed up after the event withHubert Younghwan Lee, head of TJWG, who added, “Sadly, it commonly happens inmany societies in transition that the majority of perpetrators are not heldfully accountable because, among other reasons, politicians are often afraid ofpunishing those who can mobilize a group that resists transition. Politiciansbelieve that strong punishments might further exacerbate internal political conflictsand thus hinder the processes for reconciliation and peace. However, impunityoften comes at the expense of truth and justice for victims of serious abuses” Nevertheless, reunification is not the onlyviable channel to see justice for those who have long suffered frommethodical oppression of their most basic human rights. Koo Jeong Woo,associate professor at Sungkyunkwan University, explained, “North Korea hassigned various human rights treaties. It ratified the International Covenant onCivil and Political Rights in 1981, the Convention on the Rights of the Childin 1990, Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities in 2013,etc. That gives the international community the legal foundation to hold NorthKorea accountable for its violations of these treaties.” Lee expounded on this assertion, pointing out that while Germany offers useful insight in terms of a reunification scenario on the Korean Peninsula, a different window of opportunity may open for socio-political change in North Korea– even without reunification. “To be prepared for such acase, we need to pay attention to many other countries where transitionhappened internally,” he said. News Hamhung man arrested for corruption while working at a state-run department storelast_img read more