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Summit transcript goes missing

Unknown whereabouts of presidential records spawns political debate

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Published : 2013-07-18 20:17
Updated : 2013-07-18 20:19

The National Archives of Korea has confirmed that it does not possess the transcript of the 2007 inter-Korean summit talks, igniting intense controversy over the whereabouts of the contentious records sought by the rival parties.

The mysterious misplacement of the original transcript effectively shifted the attention away from whether former President Roh Moo-hyun insinuated a willingness to nullify the de facto West Sea border to which former government is responsible for the transcript if it is permanently lost.

“We confirmed from the National Archives that they do not hold such data (transcript),” Saenuri Rep. Hwang Jin-ha said at the National Assembly’s House Steering Committee on Thursday.
National Archives officials unload presidential records regarding the 2007 inter-Korean summit at the National Assembly on Thursday. (Yonhap News)

Hwang and nine other lawmakers of the Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party have been searching for the transcript in question since Monday. Hwang added that the members could not find any tape-recording of the talks between Roh and then-North Korea leader Kim Jong-il from the list of documents either.

The DP’s Rep. Woo Yoon-keun agreed they could not locate the records but added that they could not accept why the National Archives wasn’t trying harder to search for the transcript.

The National Archives reportedly explained that it had no knowledge of the actual contents as it had not been able to look into the presidential archives, which are kept confidential.

The Assembly decided to continue searching for the actual transcript until next Monday. The Steering Committee said members from each party can be accompanied by experts in their efforts to search for the document, and that the National Archives should also continue looking.

Meanwhile, other relevant documents to the summit were submitted for review, but the rival parties remain at odds over when and how to analyze them.

Upon the bizarre turn of events, rival lawmakers began to point the finger at each other over the whereabouts of the records. Further dispute is expected, with some broaching the need for a full-out investigation into the missing transcript.

“If it is found that the transcript is missing, the pro-Roh forces must be judged for distorting history and discarding the transcript,” a Saenuri Party lawmaker was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.

The DP, on the other hand, directed blame toward the Lee Myung-bak administration.

“If it is confirmed that there is no transcript, we cannot but suspect the Lee government that has a history of deleting and concealing its wrongdoings such as its surveillance of civilians and the NIS’ political smear campaign,” said DP floor leader Jun Byung-hun.

In response, a member of the Lee administration was quoted as telling Yonhap News that the DP’s claim was “utterly ridiculous and despicable” and that it was simply impossible to revise or discard something in the presidential archive once it’s been stored.

Attention is now centered on how the transcripts were produced, delivered and preserved.

According to sources, the transcript had been kept in two versions after the summit, one of which had been delivered to the National Archives, while the other had been kept by the National Intelligence Service.

Kim Jeong-ho, a former presidential secretary for records, said in a radio interview that upon Roh’s retirement, all the 8.24 million items in the presidential records were handed over and that it was impossible for a specific record to be omitted.

The former members of Roh’s administration released a statement and demanded the National Archives put its utmost efforts to find the original transcript that they delivered.

“If they fail to find it, the National Archives should explain how they have been managing all the presidential records and clarify all suspicions (including political interference).”

Some raised the possibility of a simple technical problem.

As the transcript in question is in a confidential archive, it could be hidden under a completely different “code name” or under different operation system between the presidential archive and the National Archive.

Upon political wrangling over Roh’s alleged NLL comments, the DP ― spearheaded by Roh’s closest aide Rep. Moon Jae-in ― had strongly demanded to view the original transcript and all preparatory and relevant documents to clear his name.

The Saenuri Party agreed, believing that looking into the presidential archives would be a chance to confirm its claim that Roh made remarks to the effect of rescinding the NLL and that the version kept by the National Archives would be little different from the earlier version released by the NIS.

By Lee Joo-hee (jhl@heraldcorp.com)