NLL transcript found in Bongha

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NLL transcript found in Bongha

Traces of a transcript missing from the National Archives of a meeting at the 2007 inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang were found on a computer system of the late president Roh Moo-hyun.

And prosecutors managed to recover the entire controversial transcript.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office has now concluded that the transcript of the meeting between Roh and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was never transferred from the Blue House to the National Archives in Seongnam, Gyeonggi at the end of Roh’s term in 2008, as it was supposed to be.

But it seems to have been maintained on an Internet documentation system Roh copied and brought to his hometown after retirement.

Prosecutors found traces of the transcript on the copied database in Bongha Village in South Gyeongsang, Roh’s hometown, and restored the transcript.

The fact that the transcript was not in the National Archive raises the possibility that the Roh government did not classify the document as required to be stored. Whether the failure was intentional or not has yet to be determined.

“The transcript should definitely have been stored in the National Archive and if it was not, it is problematic,” said a spokesman for the prosecutors’ office. “It is even more problematic if it was destroyed on purpose. We have a partial idea [why the Roh government excluded the transcript from the list of documents for storage.]”

The 2007 meeting became an issue in last December’s presidential election when a representative said Roh disavowed the Northern Limit Line, the defacto border between South and North Korea in the Yellow Sea, during his discussion with Kim Jong-il. In June, the National Intelligence Service declassified and made public its copy of the transcript. That transcript had Roh making confusing and contradictory comments about the NLL.

But Roh’s loyalists insisted the NIS had doctored its copy of the transcript and insisted on seeing the original in the National Archive, which the National Assembly allowed. But it was found to be missing, and what happened to it when the Roh administration ended in 2008 became an issue on its own.

The Roh administration’s administrative management system was called e-jiwon (“a garden of electronic knowledge”), and it stored top state secrets designated by Roh. After his term, all the records in the system were transferred to the National Archive’s own management system.

Roh had a duplicate system made to access presidential records from his retirement home in Bongha Village. That’s where prosecutors found the transcript.

The restored transcript is nearly identical to the copy declassified by the NIS, according to prosecutors yesterday. The prosecution plans to launch a probe into some 30 people involved with the production and transfer of presidential documents under the Roh administration, starting next week at the earliest.

The unexpected twist in the investigation gave the ruling Saenuri Party, which was in the opposition during the Roh administration, a cudgel against the opposition Democratic Party, some of whose lawmakers are still closely tied to Roh’s legacy.

“The unprecedented evaporation of a historical document has been confirmed,” said Kang Eun-hee, a Saenuri Party spokeswoman, in a press briefing yesterday. She urged DP lawmaker Moon Jae-in, former chief of staff for Roh and the opposition candidate in the presidential race last year, to take responsibility along with his party.

Roh loyalists claimed earlier that the possibility of his administration fiddling around with the transcript was “near zero.”

“Discarding of historical documents,” said an official with the Blue House, “is an act of disrupting the national order and is never supposed to happen.”

The Roh Moo-hyun Foundation said in a statement that the reason why the transcript exists in the e-jiwon, not in the National Archives, should be figured out in an investigation. But it said that the ruling party’s accusation that the Roh administration hid or discarded documents is no longer valid now that the transcript has been recovered.


BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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