Toward Transformative Mediation: Restorative justice practice in South Korea
Apr 28, 2011
from the article by Jae Young Lee:
Growing interest in Restorative Justice has been emerging in Korea among scholars, law practitioners, and civil society groups since as early as the late 1990s. However, its practice was very limited until a recent experimental project from 2006-2008. During those three years, Korean Institute of Criminal Justice (KICJ) and a civil organization called Conflict Resolution Center under Women Making Peace carried out the first formal Restorative Justice project in Korea called Victim-Offender Dialog, particularly designed for juvenile cases. Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, Seoul Family Court, and Juvenile Protection Institution referred juvenile cases to Conflict Resolution Center to be dealt with a conference where conflicting parties and trained mediators sat together.
The primary goal of Victim-Offender Dialog was to address directly both parties’ sensitive issues and needs and to reach the best agreements that could be sufficient to their needs. However, other deeper outcomes such as the restoration of relationship and the transformation of current situation/structure/culture that had caused harms were also brought up in both pre and during conference times. Mediators tried to pay more attention to the dynamics of relationship while both parties interacted each other through mediators’ guidance than list of outcomes including restitution. The approach that Conflict Resolution Center mediators used was called transformative mediation.
....One of biggest differences between retributive justice and restorative justice is the tense. While the meaning of justice in retributive justice is to make even what happened in the past by posing the same amount of pain on the wrongdoers, restorative justice aims for the restoration of wholeness of all individuals, communities, and societies that have been effected by wrongdoing and injustice. It is very obvious that the tense of Restorative Justice is future. Restorative Justice deals with past issues in order to move toward future transformation in both the relationship between conflicting parties, and the structures or cultures that have caused harm and pain. Thus, restorative justice has to cover a broad area of those who are affected by crimes, rather than just focusing simply on the crime and wrongdoer(s).
....In historical conflicts, the needs of both the victim side and the offender side are real to individuals who were directly affected by wrongdoing (something that forcefully happened to them against their will), but it becomes less personal and more symbolic when it turns to a collective level. Likewise, historical (or inherited) victims and offenders’ needs are more symbolic since they are not direct experiences of the victims or offenders. That is why any symbolic actions or attempts, which seem to deny the recognition of needs easily provoke anger from the other side. Thus, it is very significant to recognize each sides’ needs in dealing with historical conflicts, since this present generation is both a product of the past and, at the same time, a foundation for the future. Therefore, it is necessary to create a safe and neutral space to identify what the present needs of historical victims and offenders are as the first step of making progress in solving historical conflict, instead of being trapped down by arguments about who is responsible for the offenses of the past.