Records throw light on modern Korea’s history
Detailed archival documents found at government offices
The National Archives and Record Service reported yesterday that many records related to major controversial cases in modern Korean history were discovered in several government offices. The records contained detailed information that was previously unknown.
The record service said that it had recently conducted an investigation on 123 organizations to examine how the offices were preserving important records. During the investigation ― which included central government offices as well as regional government offices ― it found numerous case files that contained details unknown to the public. The service said that one cabinet meeting transcript dated January 28, 1949, contained an order from former President Syngman Rhee to secretly investigate pro-Japanese groups and show leniency to them. This was the first document that confirmed Mr. Rhee had given such an order.
The record service also found 11 files that contained reports of civilians in Geochang, Hamyang and Sancheong counties of South Gyeongsang province who were killed “ruthlessly” by police, military and private groups during and after the Korean War, between 1951 and 1960.
The service also discovered the log from the chairman’s office of the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction ― a committee that was intended to implement the aims of then-Major General Park Chung Hee, who had just orchestrated a military coup. The log contains an daily entry from the first day of the military revolution, May 16, 1961, until December 17, 1963, and was called an invaluable reference to what happened at the time.
At the Defense Ministry, the service discovered documents on several cases in relation to the Samcheong Education Corps. This was a social purification project of the 1980s that was supposedly intended to put people whom the government regarded as criminals through a reform camp. There were many questions regarding the criteria on who was forced to go to these camps and whether or not they were abused for political purposes.
The records service said that there had been three major attempts to destroy such evidence. “We found that in 1962, 1968 and 1975, there was extensive destruction of records,” an official said. The service said it would provide the data to committees that are conducting research on past modern history.
by Jo Kang-soo, Wohn Dong-hee