NLL transcript can’t be found

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NLL transcript can’t be found

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Officials of the National Archives of Korea yesterday move boxes of presidential records to a meeting room in the National Assembly where lawmakers will review them to search for a 2007 summit dialogue transcript. Lawmakers in the review committee said yesterday they could not find the transcript.[NEWS1]

The controversy surrounding a behind-closed-doors dialogue between the two Koreas’ leaders during a 2007 summit took an unexpected twist yesterday as a group of lawmakers failed to find a transcript of the conversation at the National Archives, where it was supposed to be stored.

The National Assembly’s House Steering Committee yesterday decided that the ten lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri and opposition Democratic parties will make a third visit to the National Archives at 2 p.m. on Monday to make a final search for the 2007 inter-Korean summit dialogue transcript.

The committee also said a group of four lawmakers - two each from each party - can visit the archives through Sunday to keep searching for the transcript. The committee also asked the National Archives to make its own efforts to locate the transcript.

In a move to put an end to months of political controversy surrounding President Roh Moo-hyun’s alleged disavowing of the western maritime border during the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2007, the 10 lawmakers tried Monday and Wednesday to locate the original transcript of the conversation at the National Archives in Seongnam, Gyeonggi.

A copy was declassified by the National Intelligence Service last month quoting Roh as saying vague and contradictory things. But the Democratic Party accuses the NIS of altering the copy and demanded to see the original transcript.

The 10 lawmakers attempted to find it by using keywords to search the titles of presidential records held at the National Archives but failed.

Following the unexpected development, the House Steering Committee held an urgent meeting and scheduled the additional search Monday.

While the lawmakers will do an additional search, Park Kyung-kook, head of the National Archives, said the transcript of the summit was not on a list of items that Roh endorsed to be handed over to the archives.

According to multiple sources from the ruling party, Park testified before the committee yesterday. Lawmakers asked Park if the transcript was on the list approved by Roh and he said, “No,” the sources said.

Park also dismissed the Democrats’ argument that the National Archives has any technical difficulty tracking down the transcript, the sources told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The National Archives did provide the legislature 10 boxes of records on the summit. The committee agreed yesterday that the two parties will make a decision on when to open them.

Kim Man-bok, the former National Intelligence Service chief who accompanied Roh to the summit in Pyongyang, said earlier the transcript was created one week after the meeting. He said the original went to the Blue House and a copy was stored at the National Intelligence Service. When Roh’s presidency ended in February 2008, the original was transferred to the National Archives.

Speculation is growing about the whereabouts of the original transcript. While some said it must still be in the National Archives and the lawmakers need more time to find it, others raised the possibility it was never stored there.

People in the Saenuri Party suspect the transcript was destroyed by the Roh Blue House, while some Democrats suspect Roh’s successor, Lee Myung-bak, destroyed it.

“I was told that Roh, toward the end of his presidency at the end of 2007 or early 2008, ordered the transcript be destroyed,” said a senior ruling party official. “At his order, the original at the Blue House was destroyed.”

Another ruling party official told the JoongAng Ilbo that he heard a rumor that the Blue House copy was taken to Bongha Village in South Gyeongsang, where Roh retired after his presidency.

During Roh’s term, the Blue House established an electronic administrative system for the presidential office called “e-jiwon.” When Lee succeeded him, the Blue House said in 2008 that officials of the Roh Blue House put significant amounts of sensitive national information out of the reach of the incoming president.

At the time, the Lee Blue House said Roh had a duplicate system made to access presidential records from his retirement home in Bongha Village. Roh later returned the hard disks and his aides underwent a prosecution probe over the leak of confidential records.

During last year’s presidential campaign, when the controversy over Roh’s alleged remarks at the summit first surfaced, allegations were also made that Roh had ordered his staffers to destroy the summit transcript before leaving the Blue House.

“We didn’t receive a single piece of paper from the Roh government on what were stored as presidential records,” a former senior presidential aide to Lee said yesterday.

Park Jeong-ha, former spokesman of the Lee Blue House, also said that what the Lee government received from the Roh Blue House was “just an empty shell.”

Representative Jun Byung-hun of the Democratic Party yesterday blamed the Lee administration.

“It is accurate to say that we have not found it yet,” he said of the transcript that is supposed to be in the National Archives. “If it is confirmed that the transcript has gone missing, I have no choice but to suspect the Lee administration based on its past behavior.”

Former members of the Roh Blue House yesterday also issued a statement to stress that the transcript was handed over to the National Archives. Roh was briefed and approved the transcript in December 2007 through the e-jiwon system and it was later sent to the National Archives along with all other data in the e-jiwon, they said.

The former Roh aides said the National Archives must do its best to find the transcript or else it must explain how it had gone missing.

People who worked in the Roh Blue House told the JoongAng Ilbo Wednesday about other possible technical difficulties.

“When we handed over the Blue House records to the National Archives, we gave the entire electronic administrative system in one go,” said an official who worked at the Roh Blue House. “It is possible an error occurred during the search process.”

Lim Sang-Kyung, who served the Roh Blue House as the presidential secretary for documentation, talked about limits in the lawmakers’ search method.

“We normally assign titles to records that are related to the contents,” said Lim. “But confidential records are sometimes given titles that are not related to the contents. For example, a military record of the Northern Limit Line could be entitled ‘Environmental survey of the Taebaek Mountains.’ So it’s possible the lawmakers couldn’t find it through a wrong keyword searches.”

Another former Roh government official agreed. “It is unclear how the presidential records were titled,” he said. “It is possible that the dialogue transcript exists but not under the straightforward title of ‘Inter-Korean summit transcript.’?”

The Roh administration provided about 8.25 million records to the National Archives and 340,000 of them were labeled as presidential records.

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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