Roh’s records to remain sealed for up to 30 years
Transcripts of presidential summits have surfaced as a sensitive issue following a revelation by a lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party that Roh disavowed the western maritime border of the Northern Limit Line during his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang in 2007.
The National Archives of Korea operates the presidential archive in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, and its Web site allows searches of the records of former presidents.
The JoongAng Ilbo, however, learned that no records of Roh’s summits with foreign leaders, including the 2007 meeting with the North Korean leader, are searchable in the archive.
In contrast, records of former President Kim Dae-jung’s summits with foreign leaders, including those from the first-ever historic inter-Korean summit in 2000, are available in the archive.
A total of 39 files, including the 14-page document created by the Blue House secretariat on June 16, 2000, about the welcoming event for the summit, were available.
A total of 190 records on Kim’s summits, including the inter-Korean meeting, were made public as of yesterday. Records related to Kim’s summits with U.S. President George W. Bush, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi were among the items available for public viewing.
A search for records of President Kim Young-sam’s summit with foreign leaders also yielded 143 items, including his summit with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on March 6, 1995.
While the records of Roh’s summits are conspicuously missing, an official at the National Archives of Korea said the search is allowed only for materials that are not designated as confidential or sealed under a presidential order.
“Most records of Roh’s summits were sealed under his order,” the official said.
The Act on the Management of the Presidential Archive was established under the order of President Roh.
The National Archives under the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, predecessor of the current Ministry of Public Administration and Security, drafted a bill with the Blue House secretariat and obtained National Assembly approval in April 2007.
Under the act, a special category of “presidential records” was created and protected with authority stronger than confidential records. The president has a right to designate some records as “presidential records,” thereby barring them from public view for up to 30 years from their creation.
Under Article 17 of the act, not only “confidential records concerning military affairs, diplomacy and unification” but also “records concerning the private life of individuals, which may incur infringement on the name, body, property, and honor of individuals and interested persons if disclosed to the public” and “records representing the political view or standing of the president, which may incite political turmoil if disclosed to the public,” could be sealed as presidential records.
In order to view the presidential records before the seal expires, two-thirds of the National Assembly - the same number required to amend the Constitution - must approve it.
The Roh administration handed over 8.25 million records to the National Archives, and 340,000 items are sealed as “presidential records,” the Ministry of Public Administration and Security said.
While all records of the presidential office are required to be handed over to the presidential archive with no exception - whether they are electronic records or paper documents - Roh took a copy of a hard disk of the Blue House’s main server to his retirement home at Bongha Village in South Gyeongsang in February 2008 shortly before his term ended.
After Roh created his own viewing system, insisting on his right to see the records for his administration as a former president, the prosecution launched a probe to see if the move was in violation of the law governing presidential record management. The law bars any unauthorized destruction or leak of presidential records. Roh, then, handed the data over to the National Archive.
The records of the Roh Blue House are stored in boxes labeled by the documentation years and the protection period. The seal periods vary from 10 years to 15 years to 30 years. The archive said it has no information about what the documents are.
Asked by Saenuri Party Representative Ko Hee-sun on Thursday if the archive is storing a record of Roh’s dialogue with Kim during the summit in 2007, Song Gwi-geun, head of the National Archives of Korea, said he has no way to confirm it. “President Roh sealed some of his presidential records for 15 years, so we don’t even have a way to check whether the record is included or not,” Song said.
By Jung Hyo-sik, Ser Myo-ja [firstname.lastname@example.org ]