Truth, History Revision, and South Korea’s Mnemonic Representation of the Past
The production of collective memory and history is embedded in transitional justice processes of truth-seeking, reparations, prosecutions, and other legislative reforms that address a state’s past abuses. This study builds on the growing interest in memory initiatives by bringing to light the integral role memory practices play in truth-seeking and reparations policies. Particularly, it focuses on memory initiatives as part of a broader set of symbolic reparations integrated in truth commission work. Drawing from observations of a state which is a relative latecomer to transitional justice processes, this chapter examines South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its relationship with the production of collective memory, focusing on symbolic reparations of history revision via the national history textbook. Using political discourse analysis, this study compares the historical truth from the truth commission to the national history textbook, focusing on the portrayal of the truth and narrative about human rights abuses in recent Korean history. Through this analysis, the research finds that human rights language in history revisions discursively contests the truth commissions’ conclusions. The collective memory from the textbook points for the need to reevaluate the politics behind the creation of memory even in a state that transitioned to a democracy, instituted over ten truth commissions, and held two former heads of state criminally accountable.
KeywordsTransitional justice Truth-seeking Reparations Prosecutions Truth and Reconciliation Commission Collective memory History revision History textbook Discourse analysis
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