[EDITORIALS]The Sad State of Documentation

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[EDITORIALS]The Sad State of Documentation

The government's maintenance of documentation is disappointing. The Act on the Management of Archives by Public Agencies that was enacted in December 1999 for the organized documentation of state affairs is not being implemented properly. According to documents submitted by the government to the National Assembly, the government did not record as mandated by law close to half (48.1 percent) of the 297 meetings that its ministers and vice-ministers presided over and attended. Of the minutes recorded, only 21 percent provide the crux of what was said at the meetings. This is a prime example of careless documentation.

Despite the traditions of strict management, such as meticulously kept minutes of royal meetings during the Choson dynasty, our modern society has had a poor record of documentation. The historical materials of the president are so loosely kept that when a president's rule ends, suspicions over the documents being destroyed or burned and disputes over the ownership of them ensued. When the present government investigated the background of the financial crisis, related materials from the Blue House and from government agencies dealing with the economy were missing. The government had to listen to and record again the testimony of previous government officials. The absence of documentation is the legacy of a vengeful political culture and the skewed public office experience that views documentation as the provision of facts for censure.

The present government enacted a law governing the management of archives in order to establish a new documentation culture that would lead to a more open and responsible state administration. We had hoped the law would provide a new turning point in the maintenance of government archives. But the law is not being followed due to public servants' lack of awareness of history. The meetings presided over by the deputy prime minister of education have only their conclusions recorded without details.

We should take this opportunity to rectify our attitude on documentation. The documentation of state affairs lies in maintaining and handing over the failures and successes of past governments. If we continue to care little about recording the meetings, the law governing documentation could well become just a piece of toilet paper.
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