Aide: Roh sent records to NIS

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Aide: Roh sent records to NIS

Before leaving the Blue House, President Roh Moo-hyun instructed an aide to give the nation’s main spy agency the authority to manage the transcript of his secret conversation with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during the 2007 inter-Korean summit, a prosecution source told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Cho Myoung-gyon, who served as Roh’s security policy secretary from 2006, told the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office earlier this year about the detailed accounts of the record and how it was managed, the source said. At the time, Cho was questioned as a witness in a case against Saenuri lawmakers, the source said.

After a Saenuri lawmaker made the bombshell revelation before the December presidential election that Roh had disavowed the western maritime border of the Northern Limit Line while talking with Kim during their summit in Pyongyang in 2007, the Democratic Party pressed a defamation charge against the representative and other Saenuri officials.

The prosecution investigated the case in January and February, and Cho was questioned twice along with multiple officials of the National Intelligence Service, the source said.

Cho’s testimony is expected to create turmoil in the ongoing controversy surrounding the whereabouts of a transcript of the sensitive conversation. Former National Intelligence Service director Kim Man-bok said previously that an original transcript of the conversation was kept at the Blue House and then sent to the National Archives after Roh’s presidency, while the spy agency kept a copy of it and an audio file.

The whereabouts of the transcript in the National Archives, however, became a political hot potato after the ruling and opposition lawmakers failed to locate it despite searching throughout last week.

“Cho testified that he briefed Roh about the transcript and Roh ordered him to have the National Intelligence Service manage it because his successor should refer to it for inter-Korean relations,” the prosecution source said yesterday. “Cho is the one who accompanied Roh to the summit with Kim [on Oct. 3, 2007], recorded their conversation and created the transcript in cooperation with Kim Man-bok, then National Intelligence Service director.”

Another source who participated in the probe earlier this year also supported the possibility that the transcript was not in the Blue House. “I was given the impression from the witnesses’ testimonies that Roh didn’t want to keep it at the Blue House,” he said.

Although the prosecution cleared the Saenuri lawmaker and other government officials of making false accusations against Roh in February, the scandal showed no sign of ending.

The National Intelligence Service then declassified its copy of the transcribed dialogue and released it last month, but Democrats accused the spy agency of lacking political integrity and demanded to check the original record supposedly held at the National Archives.

To put an end to the scandal, the National Assembly approved an unprecedented sanction to allow 10 lawmakers from the Saenuri and Democratic parties to search the sealed presidential records at the archives. The lawmakers, however, had failed to locate the record as of yesterday evening.

Representatives Hwang Jin-ha and Cho Myung-chul of the Saenuri Party and Representatives Jeon Hae-cheol and Park Nam-choon of the Democratic Party visited the National Archives yesterday in Seongnam, Gyeonggi with four civilian experts. After a brief discussion on new search methods to be used, they began the hunt at about 2:30 p.m.

On Saturday, the lawmakers and experts conducted a five-hour search.

The lawmakers are scheduled to report to the National Assembly’s House Steering Committee today about the progress. The two parties agreed that a final search would take place this morning to conclude whether the National Archives has a record of the dialogue or not.

The Democratic Party, including its defeated presidential candidate Moon Jae-in, who served as Roh’s chief of staff at the time of the summit, insisted that the transcript, along with all other records of the Roh Blue House, were stored at the National Archives.

The Democrats said technical difficulties could have caused the days of failed attempts to locate the records because the search system of the archives is different from the “e-jiwon” electronic data management system built by the Roh Blue House. They said the lack of compatibility between the two systems could account for the lawmakers’ difficulty.

The Saenuri Party, however, suggested that the record was never handed over to the National Archives when Roh’s presidency ended in February 2008.

The conservative ruling party said it will ask the prosecution to investigate the missing transcript and demand a National Assembly probe into the case.

It also is considering a plan to reveal the voice record of the dialogue between Roh and Kim, currently stored in the National Intelligence Service, to put an end to the controversy.

BY JO KANG-SU, SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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