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Despite the Denial, the Government May be up to a Political Play

Despite the Denial, the Government May be up to a Political Play

Posted January. 20, 2005 22:32,   


As the government successively released diplomatic documents related to Korean-Japanese relations, some in the political circle are raising questions about these moves. The documents revealed on January 17 and 20, respectively, including five related to the diplomatic treaty signed by South Korea and Japan and a few regarding the “assassination of former President Park Chung-hee,” are all highly likely to have a political impact on the former president’s daughter Park Geun-hye, the leader of the Grand National Party.

The fact that Japan showed not a shred of remorse in the Korean-Japanese diplomatic treaty can be in North Korea’s interest in the negotiation with Japan currently underway. This is why the revelation of the documents can serve as a “carrot” to South Korea, which is attempting to encourage North Korea to join the six-party talks. Moreover, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) plans to newly disclose most of the 150 Korean-Japanese diplomatic treaty-related documents aside from the five already disclosed before August 15.

Some suspect that President Roh Moo-hyun may have ulterior motives in making the documents of the past public one after another directly after having declared, “Economy, all or nothing.” This may indicate that the government intends to turn the current situation to the ruling party’s favor when the bill on the probe into the past, including a special law for inquiring into pro-Japanese activities, is likely to be the most controversial agenda in the extraordinary session in February.

MOFAT, however, is dismissing it as “typical administrative procedures continued for the past 12 years.” In 1993, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs enacted “regulations on the conservation and public opening of diplomatic documents.” The government has revealed 5,912 volumes of diplomatic documents until January last year since 1994. The Public Opening of Diplomatic Documents Examinations Commission has been determining whether or not to make the documents written more than 30 years ago public and disclosing them in January following year. The government claims the recent disclosure to be completely irrelevant to the political motives.

“Ninety-one percent of some 1,200 documents in question have been released,” a government official said, strongly denying the speculations for selective revelation, most of which includes documents associated with Korean-Japanese relations. The government argues that the diplomatic treaty was signed in the 1960s, which means it should have been disclosed in the 1990s, but that the publicizing of the document was delayed until the ruling to making it public by the Seoul Administration Court was made last February.

The government, nonetheless, has left a trace of possibly for deliberating on “political considerations.” Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling party made remarks right after the revelation of documents, saying, “We will clean up and cure the wrongdoings of the former government.” This implies the possibility of taking advantage of it.

“Despite the claim of document disclosure under the law and regulation, the recent action must be regarded as part of the cleanup operation by the participatory government,” a Korean-Japanese relations expert said under the condition of anonymity and pointed out, “A political product can be created even though it was not intended.”

Ho-Won Choi bestiger@donga.com