State panel confirms massive rights violations at Busan confinement facility decades ago

SEOUL-- A state reconciliation panel on Wednesday confirmed widespread human rights abuses and illegalities at an infamous detention facility in Busan decades ago, saying such illegal acts were brought about by the unjust exercise of public power by the state.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) made the announcement after investigating the now-defunct Brothers Home, a confinement facility run in the southern port city, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in the 1970s and 1980s to isolate several tens of thousands of children and adults deemed by authorities to be vagrants.

The TRC said that unspecified civilians designated as vagrants were rounded up without due process and detained arbitrarily at the Brothers Home for a long period of time with the intervention or permission from public authorities, including police.

The detainees then suffered gross human rights violations, such as forced labor, cruel treatment, sexual violence, death and disappearance, the commission said.

It is the first time in 35 years since the Brothers Home case became known to the public that a state agency has defined the case as a human rights violation caused by state violence.

The TRC said it has uncovered unconstitutionality and illegality in the process of rounding up and detaining vagrants, serious human rights infringements in the operation of the confinement facility, and the government's attempt to systematically cover up the case.

In particular, it noted that the interior ministry's order No. 410, which was used as the basis for the random crackdowns on vagrants and their detention, has been found to be in violation of legal principles.

Surviving victims have testified that there was persistent and widespread physical and sexual abuse and forced labor at the Brothers Home, which reportedly detained about 38,000 people from 1975 to 1986. Notably, as many as 4,355 were sent to the facility in 1984 alone.

Official records previously indicated that 552 died at the facility in the 1975-1987 period.

But the TRC said it has found 105 more deaths there in the period, adding there seemed to be cases of deaths of inmates during emergency evacuation or falsification of their death certificates.

It also accused the municipality of Busan, numerous municipal agencies, police and the state spy agency of taking part in systematic efforts to cover up and scale down the Brothers Home case.

The commission then recommended that the state make an official apology to the victims of forced incarceration at the Brothers Home and their bereaved families, and come up with a plan to support damage recovery and trauma healing.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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