[Research seminar] The politics of regulating history denial in transnational memory space

20 February 2020
  • Starts at: 15:30h
  • Fee: Free
  • Venue: T.M.C. Asser Instituut
  • Organiser: T.M.C. Asser Instituut
  • Address: R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22
    2517 JN The Hague

On 20 February 2020, the Asser Institute is proud to welcome Dr. Soyoung Lee from Jeju National University, Korea. During this research seminar, Dr Lee will deliver a presentation on "The Politics of Regulating History Denial in Transnational Memory Space : Current Discourse in Korea on Legislating Punitive Law against the Distortion of History." Asser researcher Dr Ulad Belavusau will be moderating the discussion. 

About the topic
Provoked by the ludicrous statements made by some politicians earlier this year that ridiculed and distorted the memory of the May 18 Democratic Uprising in South Korea, voices asserting the need for juridical punishment became prominent in civil society. In fact, this was not the first time that distortion of traumatic past greatly impacted the social discourse, and several bills have been proposed in order to punish such misdeed. The objective of this presentation is neither to examine the normative legitimacy of juridification nor to rectify the controversial clauses within the bills in order to get it amended. Rather, it aims to analyse the political effect of such juridification within the social discourse. This presentation thereby deals with the three research questions.

The first one is about the implication of enacting such punitive clauses. Due to the difficulties in finding ‘definite and alive’ victims because of long gap of time between traumatic abuses and present-day claims, it is not easy to punish distorters by crimes against reputation within the Criminal Law. Thus, it would have been necessary to reframe the issue under the framework of ‘harm to our historical memory’ rather than ‘harm to one’s reputation’. In that respect, it can be said that the Rechtsgut of the bills is not human rights of individual victims but rather the historical truth, or furthermore, the social memory.

The second question is on the way Auschwitzlüge is dealt within public discourse in Korea. Although the laws against negationism in Europe currently reveal various problems including the dispute over victimhood among conflicting memories or the hierarchy of the historical trauma, it appears that they are regarded as perfect models of coming to terms with the past.

Meanwhile the third question is on whether such aim of regulating history denial would be truly effective. Since the memory of the May 18 Democratic Uprising is no longer oppressed or marginalised, but emerged as a dominant public memory since mid-1990s through legal recognition as well as cultural commemoration, the regulated may, at times, even claim themselves as victims and demand the legal recognition of their own distorted memories of the contested past as well.

15:30-16:30: seminar
16:30: drinks  

Asser research seminars
During the Asser Research Seminars, external researchers are invited to present their current and upcoming research with the Asser research community. The seminars are semi-open, as we invite a few external people who may be interested in the specific topic of the seminar. However, we aim to keep the group’s size limited, to stimulate interaction and high quality, in-depth discussions. Researchers who are interested in presenting their research to the Asser research community are welcome to send an e-mail to Dr. Christophe Paulussen (c.paulussen@asser.nl). 

For more information about past research seminars, please see here.