[VIEWPOINT] Archives and good governmentAs part of his "National Vision 21," President-elect Roh Moo-hyun has emphasized the importance of the function of sound supervision in administration. Mr. Roh has declared that he would implement stronger supervision by making minutes mandatory in every government meeting and making them accessible to the public.
The public would be allowed to view all the minutes of the Blue House and official meetings of the government according to the contents after a certain period of time, according to Mr. Roh's plan, and a separate and independent organization would say which information should be made public.
Mr. Roh's serious consideration of supervision will be most helpful in dissolving the deep-rooted distrust of politics and the government. Supervision is the right way to create transparency in politics and government.
Mr. Roh has also attracted the public's attention by announcing that he and his transition team would record their entire proceedings to insure the transparency of the policies being formulated and publish them by early March. By publishing their records, the transition team will be showing how determined Mr. Roh is to implement this policy.
I agree with the step the president-elect and his transition team intends to take and think all efforts must be made to find a way to realize this plan. The president-elect and his transition team are on the right track concerning minute-keeping, but their plan lacks substance.
The president-elect said minutes should be kept of important meetings, but he has not been specific about public administrative actions. Not all public actions center on meetings. We need to record decisions that do not take place during meetings and executive processes and make them public to bring full transparency to government. Mr. Roh has said that a separate organization would determine what minutes would be made public, but that organization should also operate independently.
The statement that the records of the transition team should be published also needs clarification. The plan to lead the effort to implement transparency is commendable, but how can transparency be assured by the vary people who recorded the information? Only a mechanism that guarantees that the records of all the activities, meetings and research by the transition team are made and kept intact will guarantee transparency.
Recently, archivists pointed out the importance of presidential records being saved properly, urging the transition team to assume control of the records related to President Kim Dae-jung. Until now, presidential records had been destroyed and sometimes even turned into personal papers. It is only natural that we should pay more attention to saving presidential documents. Fortunately, the archivists' expression of concern was promptly answered with an announcement by the government that all records of President Kim Dae-jung's activities would be passed to Mr. Roh's transition team. Had Mr. Roh and his transition team, who have so vociferously voiced their support for proper record-keeping, been more active in requesting the records of President Kim, there would have been no need for the archivists to step up and demand that the government hand them over.
The luke warm support for record-keeping that the transition team has shown so far must be changed. Instead of exhorting the prerogatives of the Government Archives and Records Service under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Government Administration and the Blue House staff, the transition team should act on its own behalf. If the transition team does not assume control of official records, which are the very essence of any transition, what is there to take over? Without the strong determination to consolidate the government's record-keeping, there will be no transparent politics or government.
* The writer is a professor of archival science at Myongji University.
by Kim Ik-han