It is fortunate that the prosecution has found a clue to what happened to the missing transcript of the behind-closed-doors conversations between former President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at a 2007 summit in Pyongyang after months of investigation into the mystery. According to the prosecution, the transcript that contained President Roh’s shocking remarks partly disavowing the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border on the Yellow Sea, was not transferred to the National Archives at the end of Roh’s term, but was maintained in the computer system Roh brought to Bongha Village, his hometown and the site of his retirement.
The prosecution also discovered a trace of the transcript being deleted by the Blue House data management system as well as a revised copy of the transcript, which is almost the same as a copy kept by the National Intelligence Service. The prosecution is now convinced that the Blue House under the Roh administration from the very beginning didn’t classify the transcript as one of the records that should be transferred to the National Archives.
Now the prosecution must find out who ordered the deletion of the original copy of the transcript, how the transcript was excluded from the list of items to transfer to the archives and who intervened in the process. All of those involved in the incident must cooperate with the prosecution’s further investigations as such handling of an important historical document will undoubtedly be a serious violation of the law. The law on presidential records management stipulates that any removal, concealment or loss of records will be punished with prison sentences or fines. Given the undeniable value of presidential records for the nation, the prosecution must execute the law as strictly as possible to prohibit any arbitrary manipulation or elimination of records in the future.
At the same time, however, we must not allow the incident to escalate into an inexorable political battle. The ruling Saenuri Party has already raised a possibility of legislative probes into the incident while the opposition regards the political offensive as a scheme to break the current deadlock over the Park Geun-hye administration’s governance problem. If groundless mudslinging and conspiracy theories join forces and become a full-fledged political war, people’s lives are not going to get better. They will get worse. Therefore, politicians should earnestly cooperate with the law enforcement authorities’ investigations into the case until the court reaches its final conclusion, while maintaining their composure at the same time.