Case of the missing transcript

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Case of the missing transcript

The controversy over former President Roh Moo-hyun’s alleged disavowal of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border in the Yellow Sea, at his 2007 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has taken a weird turn. Ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker Hwang Woo-yea said he had reported to the House Steering Committee of the National Assembly that the National Archives told him that it could not find any record - including audio tapes - of the conversation between the two leaders after combing through all the digital data. In other words, there exists a possibility that the archives don’t have the sensitive transcript, contrary to our belief that it is holding the original version.

Aides to the former president have been saying that his administration gave the original to the Blue House, after which it was stored at the National Archives, and a copy to the National Intelligence Service. The NIS declassified its copy last month. We are perplexed that the National Archives could find neither the transcript nor the audio tape despite a search for nearly two weeks. Yet the archives could find a number of records from before and after the summit, which makes us wonder why.

There are three possibilities. First, the National Archives was really unable to find the records as the opposition camp argues. Aides to the former president explain that the archives’ current search system probably cannot find the records, which were based on the document management system of the Roh administration, or that the archives cannot find them because the records could have been given bizarre file names to protect their secrecy.

Second, the records may not have been delivered to the National Archives from the start. Third, the records could have been deleted after their arrival. Some lawmakers from the ruling party contend that President Roh ordered the destruction of the records at the end of his term. The opposition camp, on the other hand, argues that the records were destroyed by the Lee Myung-bak administration.

If the archives really can not find such sensitive records, they will probably be traced to a politically-motivated event by someone at some time. But if the fiasco concludes with no original record of the conversation, it could lead to a fierce legislative probe. However, it’s not time for another round of such fighting based on mere presumptions. We welcome a decision by the developer of the digital search system under the Roh administration to offer some help. Political circles also should mobilize all available means to recover the lost records before rushing to any conclusions.

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