Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an article appeared in <The Hankyoreh> on December 12, 2011, covering the tragic story of Former Minister Kim Geun-tae who suffers aftereffects of horrific torture he went through in 1980s and could not attend his daughter’s wedding ceremony because of a brain illness that could have been caused by that. To the contrary, the well-known assailant former police inspector Lee Geun-an is doing well as a pastor. Although Lee served 7 years in prison for his active role as a torture expert during 1970s and 1980s after 11-year-long fugitive life, he does not seem to feel guilty about his past as the article below reveals. I hope that the story below would deliver many things to ponder upon in terms of Korean history, human nature, the devastating nature of torture, etc. All rights regarding this post stay with the author of original article or with <The Hankyoreh> and this post will be scrapped immediately at their request. Original article of this post (in Korean) can be found in the link at the bottom.
‘Torture expert’ Lee Geun-an, “It was a kind of art”
등록 : 20111212 15:45 | 수정 : 20111212 15:58
Former Minister Kim Geun-tae who has suffered from torture aftereffects is also suffering Parkinson’s disease for years
Lee Geun-an “if I were to go back to that time, I would do the same … that was ‘patriotic’ then”
» Kim Geun-tae, former Minister of Health and Welfare
As the story of former Health and Welfare Minister Kim Geun-tae who suffers from aftereffects of ‘savage time’ he had to go through in September 1985 as the leader of ‘Democracy Movement Youth Coalition (DMYC)’ at the Namyoung-dong anticommunist investigation branch office of National Police Headquarter then, national fury over torture interrogations in 1980s mounts enormously. There, Former Minister Kim is known to undergo all kinds of tortures including electrical torture and water boarding. Former Minister Kim could not attend the wedding ceremony of her daughter in last 10th because of the illness.
Any talk about torture interrogations in 1980s cannot escape from mentioning former police inspector Lee Geun-an (72, current pastor).
Since <Hankyoreh> first reported, in December 1988 with his own picture, the reality of ‘faceless torture expert’ who tortured Former Minister Kim himself, he was on the run for 11 years. He eventually turned himself in and served 7 years in prison.
However, centered around Twitter, the publicized struggle of Former Minister Kim against illness, compounded by the interview articles of Lee publicized two times in February last year by <Ilyo Seoul>, puts Lee’s life on the stage again.
Lee, during the interview, claimed that he was not a torture expert and outright dismissed his acts of torture interrogations such as electric torture, arguing that “if you have to call me an expert, then an interrogation expert would be more appropriate”.
He said “those who try to protect themselves with logic and investigators who try to break it are having a battle of wits against each other. In that sense, the interrogation is a kind of art, though I could not embellish the art so graciously.”
He then said he would do the same thing if he were to go back to that time. He described his acts ‘patriotic’.
He claimed that there had been forcible interrogations but there had not been such horrible things like electrical torture many victims had alleged. He said that the reality had been exaggerated. Regarding current senior advisor of Democratic Party (DP) Kim Geun-tae, he claimed that he had just scared him with only 2 batteries and, as such, it had not been a torture. He continued his claim that his interrogations had been “a kind of art”.
The court, in relation to the torture case of Former Minister Kim Geun-tae, ruled guilty and sentenced 7 years in prison to him. But he claimed “the reality of the electrical torture at that time was that I scared him with 2 AA-type batteries I pulled out of the motor of a plastic model airplane.”
Regarding the case of Formoer Minister Kim, he said “I devised the electrical torture to open his mouth” but then he claimed he had not actually used that to him.
“At that time, I intentionally scared Mr. Kim Geun-tae verbally more than 2 hours. I intimidated him with things like ‘bitches like you will tell the truth when I do electric roasting‘. After a while, then, with his eyes covered, I continued to scare him by touching two batteries on his bare feet wet with salt water. Who cannot be spooked at the electric shocks under such an extreme tension.”
But, contrary to Lee’s claims that he just scared advisor Kim, depositions by advisor Kim recollecting the experience testify the horrific nightmare of torture vividly.
“They increased the electric current for screaming if I screamed; they increased the electric current for not moaning if I bit my tongue tightly not to leak out any moan and ordered me to let go of my tongue; they increased the electric current for putting up pains if I did that. Their goal was simply to push me into total confusion or mental derangement.” (“Memory of Lee Geun-an”, Kim Geun-tae, 1987)
“Pains as if to blow up my head followed and shattering fears accompanied them as if the shadow of death flew like an eagle and darted to me. I could not help screaming whenever I felt the electricity coming through my foot and poking my head.”
“Electric torture is something like searing my body with a tempered hot iron, parch it, roll it up and put it one the fire at the same time. Electrical torture is like twisting your blood vessels, stretching your nerves tight and finally severing them at every joints.”
But, Lee claimed he did not do any torture not to mention the electrical torture himself.
For torture techniques like ‘joint dislodging’, ‘ball-point-pen lead planting’, ‘chicken roasting’ which are all known as Lee’s own authentic invention, he outright denied “I tapped them on their head several times with my fist or I sometimes threw them over my shoulder using judo techniques. If you call these tortures, I will not argue anymore but I never did anything beyond them.” He then claimed his action as coercive interrogation “if I ran out of options, then I had to resort to coercive interrogation.”
He said “during some interrogations in the past, I sometimes had them to dislodge their arms out of their shoulders while restraining suspects that caused disturbances. I probably got the ‘expert’ nickname because of these incidents. But incidents like these were accidents that could happen while suppressing suspects.”
He alleged that the reason people indicted with public safety cases had claimed that they had been tortured was due to self-justification.
“Those who were involved in public safety cases were all members of secret organizations. Many of those interrogated were released under the condition that they would provide their organizational secrets to authority. How would their colleagues greet them when they came back? They should justify themselves for divulging their organizational secrets for not to be tagged as ‘traitors’. Eventually, an answer like ‘out of torture’ would have been the most appropriate, right?”
He then complained of an injustice saying that cases like the death of Park Jong-cheol over torture or Kim Seong-hak the fisherman kidnapped to North Korea where he had not been involved in had been coined to him because “media always had sold the name Lee Geun-an when the word torture had been mentioned”.
In the two interview articles of <Ilyo Seoul>, Lee also disclosed family love and fatherly love he had felt and experienced during his life at large and his life in prison.
He said “I am just a sinner to my family. All my family could not lead normal life because of the family of torture expert blame.” In particular, he revealed particular fatherly love to his second son who had died to during his time in prison.
“My second son was particularly nice among my three sons. He came to see me every week and one day he sadly told me ‘Dad, I may not live long. I got my ECG examined recently but it was not good.’ Though he was diabetic, I never thought about that because he was young (39 at that time). I shouted ‘Dong’t say things like that before me’ but he died just one month after that. I could not even watch his last.”
He also disclosed about his youngest son who had broken his heart by telling him “I will rather die than rely on you” when he had mentioned about talking to someone for his son’s job and still worked as a construction worker.
Lee who legally became a pastor in 2008 expressed his satisfaction that “of course it is Reverend Lee Geun-an. Police inspector was just a job 30 years ago”.
Lee became a believer in 1998 while living in a dark damp room. “One day, I missed my late father. He was a sincere christian. Naturally, I came to read my father’s well-thumbed bible. For 10 years after that, I studied the bible by hand copying more than 3,400 passages myself. That also made me turn myself in. John 1:9 reads ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ I also made up my mind to confess and repent my sin while writing down this clause.”
But is Lee’s repentance really meaningful?
To the <Ilyo Seoul> reporter’s question ‘would you make a different choice if we rewind the clock and go back to the past?’, he said “No. I would do exactly the same if I were to go back to that time right now” and expressed pride to his past “At that time, that was ‘patriotic’. Patriotism is not something you can dump to somebody else’s shoulder.”
To this interview, a psychiatrist Jeong Hye-shin, the president of <MindPrism>, who knows too much of the behaviors of torture experts in detail through psychiatric counselling of 1980s torture victims over the last 4 years expressed her rage in her Twitter on 11th “Lee Geun-an, you are a pastor? Jesus is wailing”.
- Original article of this post (in Korean) can be found in the following link: ‘고문기술자’ 이근안 “그건 일종의 예술이었다”