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A Step Towards Redress Is Granted to Korean Victims Decades After a “Living Hell”

WorldA Step Towards Redress Is Granted to Korean Victims Decades After a "Living Hell"

Between the years 1976 and 1987, military rulers in South Korea rounded up around 38,000 individuals living on the streets and herded them into a charity facility known as Brothers Home. The institution was designed to provide food and education to people the government referred to as vagrants, many of whom were juveniles, as well as provide employment training for them.

Instead, Brothers Home turned out to be a residence filled with terrifying occurrences.

Many of them were whipped, sexually assaulted, and forced to work as slaves. According to eyewitnesses and investigators, around 650 individuals passed away while being imprisoned there unlawfully and without their families’ knowledge. These deaths were kept secret from the victims’ relatives.

The Brothers Home, which was located in the city of Busan in the country’s southeast, quickly rose to prominence as one of the most notorious instances of human rights violations in recent South Korean history. However, very few individuals have been held responsible for their actions. Following the investigation of the top management in 1987, government authorities intervened, and the manager served a sentence of no more than thirty months in jail. He was found guilty of certain very minor violations of financial law, but not of any violations of human rights.

On Wednesday, victims scored a victory in their decades-long fight to hold the authorities accountable. This victory came after South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission confirmed that the government illegally helped send people into forced detention at Brothers Home, where they were subjected to beatings, rape, and other forms of abuse that sometimes resulted in death.

The incident that occurred at Brothers Home is one of the many instances of human rights violations that occurred during the many dictatorships that have been in power in Korea throughout the years. Books have been written by survivors over the course of many decades. Documentaries based on extensive research have been shown on major television networks. Newspapers and organisations that advocate for human rights have published multipart stories on the abuse as well as efforts to cover it up.

On the other hand, it was not until Wednesday that a government agency formally acknowledged what took place at Brothers Home as a “grave human rights violation by the state,” announced an official death toll, and recommended an apology from the government as well as assistance to heal the trauma suffered by the victims.

“The entire nation is an accomplice,” said Park Gyeong-bo, 58, who was detained at Brothers Home twice between the years 1975 and 1980. Park Gyeong-bo spent his time there between 1975 and 1980. We were dealt with as if we were the refuse of civilization.

The findings of the Truth Commission provide survivors who are suing the government for compensation compelling new evidence to support their claims. It is a part of the renewed efforts that South Korea is making to come to terms with its troubled modern history, which has been marked not only by democratisation but also by civilian massacres, popular uprisings, torture, and other human rights violations. The work that they are doing is a part of those efforts.

The military rulers of the nation tried to “clear the streets of vagrants” beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the 1980s, particularly in the years leading up to the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988. By 1986, there re more than 16,000 people being kept in 36 institutions that received financial support from the government. The one in Busan is the one that gained the most notoriety since it was able to house as many as 4,355 people despite only being designed to handle 500.

Individuals with families and jobs who were caught inebriated or without valid identification were housed at the facility together with people living on the streets, people with disabilities, people who were panhandling, and even political dissidents. The institution accommodated all of these people. According to the findings of the investigation, the facility was eligible for government subsidies according to the number of inmates it housed. It offered payments to members of the police force and local government in exchange for their assistance in locating unattended children living on the streets, transporting them to the facility, and registering them as orphans.

A former army sergeant named Park In-keun was in charge of running Brothers Home. Mr. Park was awarded many decorations by the government in recognition of his outstanding leadership at the welfare centre. In a propaganda film produced in 1981 by Korea Film Production, which was operated by the Korean government, Mr. Park was portrayed as a pious Christian who devoted his life to the ceaseless effort of rehabilitating uncontrollables and strays. A sizable Christian congregation might be seen on the very highest floor of his building.

Since their stay at Brothers Home, victims report that they have battled despair and wrath, and as a result, have often found themselves in jail or having violent relationships with their wives or children. 2009 was the year when Mr. Choi’s brother, who had also been detained in the facility, ended his own life. Another victim, Mr. Han’s sister wound up in a mental hospital as a result of what happened.

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