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[Opinion] Presidential Records

Posted June. 14, 2008 08:21,   


Cheong Wa Dae is at odds with former President Roh Moo-hyun over “presidential records.” The incumbent administration calls for the Roh side to return the presidential records he has. Former President Roh’s secretary admitted, “We’ve brought copies of electronic documents and have been keeping them.” He said Roh had gotten an understanding from the current administration for keeping the records, but things can become complicated depending on what those documents are. If those documents were confidential and regarding the nation’s diplomacy or defense affairs, instead of simple records about his achievements, they should not have been taken by Roh.

Former President Roh is unmatched by his predecessors when it comes to records. There are as many as 376 million records at his presidential library located at Seongnam City, Gyeonggi Province, 100 times more than that of former President Park Chung-hee (37,614) who was in office for 18 years, and tenfold of the total records of past presidents of Korea. Astonished by this number, some even say that Roh left presidential records surpassing the annals of the Joseon Dynasty. He also initiated a 110-billion-won project aiming at building a new presidential library in the nation’s administrative capital.

What matters is the value of those records. In this digital age where a click of the mouse is enough to create a document, the value of records can not be simply measured by the number.

Keeping those records without assessing their value is ridiculous. It is important to compile those records into an easily available material such as encyclopedia, but what is more important is to hand over the data to the incoming president so that he or she can efficiently get the hang of things and make a good use of those records.

Roh’s records would rather become a source of conflict than contributing to the development of the incumbent government. The former and current governments had a war of words over the value of the records subject to transition. The former administration destroyed key documents and materials and sent database on personnel management to the presidential record office, which forces the current government to get consent from the National Assembly. This is an issue that requires just more than conflict or emotional dispute. The presidential record law stipulates, “The ownership of any presidential record belongs to the country not a president.” The issue of right and wrong and the ownership of presidential records should be clarified.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)