Prosecutors to review Roh records

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Prosecutors to review Roh records

Prosecutors will access the confidential presidential records of the Roh Moo-hyun administration tomorrow as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of the transcript from the 2007 inter-Korean summit from the National Archives.

Cho Byung-hyun, chief justice of the Seoul High Court, granted the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office a warrant to access the classified Roh records, which are kept at the National Archives in Seongnam, southern Gyeonggi. It was issued around 9 p.m. Tuesday night, after more than six hours of review into the request.

Prosecutors also obtained a warrant to access general records from the Roh government in the National Archives.

Under the current law governing presidential records, confidential data sealed by the former president can be accessed with a warrant from the chief justice of a high court in the jurisdiction, or permission from two thirds of the sitting lawmakers in the National Assembly.

After reviewing the prosecution’s request, Seoul High Court Chief Justice Cho issued the warrant, saying the prosecutors presented sufficient grounds that the sealed records are critical to the investigation. Cho, however, rejected their request to make copies of the records and seize them, effectively confining the investigators to the National Archives in reviewing the files.

“At this stage, the prosecution can achieve its goal by simply reading the records. Therefore, I won’t allow the creation of copies or the taking of copied records out of the archives,” Cho said. “Because there is a concern that the original records could be damaged during the viewing, the head of the National Archives must make copies of the records and provide them to the prosecution.”

Judge Jeon Hyu-jae of the Seoul Central District Court also said that copies of the general presidential records, not originals, should be provided to the prosecutors for the probe.

The prosecution said its team will consult with the National Archives and begin visits to access the records starting tomorrow. It is expected to take about a month to go through all the files.

It’s not the first time that a court warrant has been issued to the prosecution for access to the Roh presidential records. In 2008, the Seoul High Court issued a warrant to assist an investigation into the former president. When his term ended, Roh took the records from his administration to his private residence. He only returned them months later after the move was criticized.

Over the past two weeks, the prosecution has created a team with six digital forensics specialists to prepare to review the presidential records.

The ruling Saenuri and main opposition Democratic parties have been squabbling for months over claims that President Roh disavowed the Northern Limit Line, the de facto western maritime border, during his 2007 summit meeting with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. After an unprecedented probe by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the two parties concluded that the original transcript from the talks is not at the National Archives of Korea.

Ruling party officials filed a complaint with the prosecution on July 25, asking it to find out whether the documents were destroyed by the Roh administration.

Unlike their usual raids, where they search for and seize evidence for later analysis, prosecutors will have to stay in the National Archives to investigate the presidential records. Most of the confidential records of the Roh Blue House were generated using the digital administrative system, “e-jiwon,” and the prosecution plans to build its own computer system to duplicate e-jiwon and access it.

Prosecution sources say it will take weeks for the specialists to restore the system and analyze its contents to find out the whereabouts of the transcript - or whether it was deleted or was never registered to begin with.

During their similar investigation in 2008, the prosecution took three weeks to analyze 14 hard disks from the e-jiwon system in Roh’s private residence. The prosecution said it will use a similar method this time.

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