Investigate Roh’s remarks

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Investigate Roh’s remarks

A shocking revelation by ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker Chung Moon-hun is creating a big stir in political circles. He said that former President Roh Moo-hyun had told North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at a summit in Pyongyang on Oct. 3, 2007, that he would not insist on the sensitive Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea from then on. Former Minister of Unification Lee Jae-joung and former head of the National Intelligence Service Kim Man-bok, who both accompanied President Roh to the summit, vehemently denied Chung’s allegation. Officials at the Ministry of Unification say there is no record of such a dialogue between Roh and Kim.

But it should be noted that lawmaker Chung - who closely examined the liberal Roh administration’s North Korea policies during his stint as presidential secretary on unification issues from 2009 through 2010 under the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration - disclosed the dialogue in convincing detail. One can hardly concoct such a story without taking a look at the records firsthand. Therefore, the government must first find out whether there are secret records of the conversation and, if there are, it must bring to light what President Roh allegedly offered his counterpart.

The NLL has long been a hot potato between the two Koreas. Even though the maritime boundary was drawn by the United States after the Korean War, it has served as a de facto maritime border for decades, and South Koreans residing on five nearby islands have been making a living based on the demarcation. With the North repeatedly refusing to accept the line, however, the waters around the boundary have turned into one of the most tense spots in the world.

If Roh really promised to ignore the border to head off potential skirmishes at sea, it could lead to a new conflict. North Korea contends that the Oct. 4, 2007, declaration on the advancement of South-North Korean relations and peace and prosperity between the two leaders was made on the assumption that the line is illegal. As such, the Lee administration must determine if Roh really made such a statement at the summit.

If the former president’s remarks prove true, the government must review the issue from the beginning. A flat denial of what was said by Roh at the time will only invite further confusion, particularly when his counterpart in North Korea is no longer there. The government may need to nullify what the former president said by consolidating its argument that the line has been serving as a practical maritime border between both sides. It’s not a matter to be hushed up.

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