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Former Pres. Roh to Return Documents

Posted July. 17, 2008 08:30,   


Former President Roh Moo-hyun expressed his willingness Wednesday through his homepage to return presidential records he took from Cheong Wa Dae when he retired from office.

In a letter to President Lee Myung-bak, Roh said, “All the fuss has been made because of me. I am responsible for the controversy, so don’t make my staff a scapegoat. I will return all the data to the government.”

Prior to Roh’s announcement, officials of the Presidential Archive delivered an ultimatum to Roh on Tuesday, saying, “If the classified documents illegally taken by former President Roh are not returned by Friday, we have no choice but to take measures in accordance with related laws.”

Roh’s secretary Kim Kyung-soo said, “On early Wednesday morning, former President Roh himself wrote the letter and at a meeting held at 11 a.m. made the final decision to return the data . . . we have sent an official notice to the Presidential Archive to retrieve all copies of ‘e-Support’ documents by Friday.”

Roh said in the letter that he thought he had the right to access the documents as a former president, but that the Lee administration’s stern reactions, including an indictment move, led him to return them.

“I vividly remember that (President Lee) said to me, ‘I treat you with respect as a former president.’ It hasn’t really hit me that I am in such narrow circumstances. It seems that I gravely misunderstood President Lee,” said Roh.

Roh also said, “Why is it so objectionable to the current government that I have access to the records of my administration, access of which I am allowed?”

To this, an official of the presidential office said, “An honorable treatment for former presidents cannot trump a legal principle that everybody must be equal before law . . . glossing over illicit acts by describing his aides as ‘scapegoats’ is missing the point of what is really at stake.”

“It’s not a matter of being objectionable or not. The name of the game is that Roh ignored the law and took the classified documents illegally,” the official said. “Though former President Roh claims his right to access, he seems not to be aware of the fact that taking and keeping the documents is, in and of itself, illegal.”

Roh said, “President Lee himself said he will establish a tradition of giving former presidents the red-carpet treatment. Whenever we met and talked on the phone, he promised to do so. Believing in his promise, I called him the other day and am awaiting his leniency.”

Cheong Wa Dae, however, refuted Roh’s comments, saying, “We requested the return of the records several times via calls and official letters. But Roh’s side dismissed those requests and, now, lay blame on us. It’s beyond understanding . . . if he is waiting for generous treatment, that means he wants a special favor.”