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A step towards compensation for the victims of anti-communist purges in South Korea

Translated Friday 31 August 2012, by Elaine Scott and reviewed by Bill Scoble

South Korea’s Supreme Court has ruled that the State owes compensation to the families of several hundred left-wing activists, killed during anti-communist purges throughout the Korean War (1950-53).

A spokesperson for the highest court in South Korea has announced to the AFP that the Supreme Court rejected the appeal filed by the State of South Korea which must now pay out up to 40 million wons (over £22,000) to 492 complainants. “We judge (...) that the government’s argument concerning the limitation period constitutes an abuse of law and contradicts the principal of bona fides (good faith)”, stated the court, confirming the judgement of Seoul High Court in April.

According to an official report from 2009, nearly 500 left-wing activists were killed by police or the army during the war. Amongst these victims, 400 were executed in 1950 in Ochang, a village in the central province of North Chungcheong. It is their families who started proceedings against the State in 2009 for carrying out summary executions, proceedings which reached an end on Monday.

After the separation of the Korean peninsula in 1948, the South Korean government set up an anti-communist organisation, forcing tens of thousands of left-wing artists and activists to join. From the start of the armed conflict in 1950, a number of them were arrested by authorities through fears that they were collaborating with their enemy in the North. The armistice between the South and the North was signed on 27th July 1953; however, this has still not been followed by a peace treaty and so the two Koreas are in fact still at war. Governed for a long time by the military, South Korea elected its first civil president, Kim Young-Sam, only in 1992.

In 2008, the South Korean president at the time, Roh Moo-Hyun, officially apologised to the victims of what he described as a “great tragedy in the modern history of the nation”.

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