중앙데일리

Roh squelches his aide

Mar 07,2003
Ra Jong-yil, the Blue House national security adviser, was in the hot seat for the second day yesterday over a meeting with a North Korean official in Beijing last month, before the new administration took office.
The Blue House remained far from forthcoming yesterday, with Mr. Ra pleading for understanding for his silence on the visit, which he said was in the national interest.
President Roh Moo-hyun and Mr. Ra were also caught in a momentary flare of emotion over the issue yesterday as top Blue House aides met. Before Mr. Roh entered the meeting, Mr. Ra told reporters that the meeting with the North Korean official was private in nature, because “there was a lot to talk about.”
He also said he had received a phone call from the American Embassy in Korea after the report broke and was assured of “1,000-percent support.” An Embassy spokeswoman, Maureen Cormak, refused to comment.
When the president entered the room, he said there were many issues, including Mr. Ra’s “problem,” to discuss. The national security aide then began speaking, saying he wanted to discuss the matter while reporters were present. The president cut him off, saying the matter should be dealt with behind closed door, but Mr. Ra tried to persist in making his point. Mr. Roh interrupted him again in a somewhat louder voice, telling him it would be dealt with privately.
The Blue House spokeswoman, Ms. Song, said the president was trying to calm the somewhat emotional Mr. Ra. Aside from his squelched attempt to comment publicly at the meeting, Mr. Ra was silent on the matter yesterday, refusing to comment on whether the trip was authorized by the president.
Ms. Song said the trip was to test whether new channels of discussions with North Korea could be opened, not to make substantive contact.
She also hinted at a disagreement between the president and Mr. Ra on the handling of the matter; she quoted Mr. Roh as saying disclosure of the circumstances was important for the sake of transparency despite Mr. Ra’s contention that it should remain secret.
Mr. Ra’s visit on Feb. 20 took place after two meetings with Mr. Roh, then president-elect. He was named national security adviser two days after he returned to Seoul.


by Choi Joon, Park Shin-hong


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