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Summit minutes saddled in mountain of lies

Posted October. 05, 2013 06:21,   


Why the late former President Roh Moo-hyun did not send the minutes of his summit with the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to the National Archive of (South) Korea? Members of the pro-Roh faction and members of the main opposition Democratic Party try to package this act as a result of Roh’s good will. They argue that Roh wanted to enable his successors to conveniently view records on his meeting, and refer to them. If the minutes are designated as presidential records and sent to the National Archives, the minutes kept at the National Intelligence Service are handled the same way according to relevant laws, and thus his successors are not allowed to view the records for at least 15 years and up to 30 years. Those in support of Roh claim that the late president chose to prevent that from happening.

This sounds logical on the surface. But if one gives it second thought, he or she can instantly understand how groundless such argument actually is. If Roh had such an intention, he naturally should have informed his successor Lee Myung-bak of his intent. Only then, Lee as successor would have viewed the minutes at the National Intelligence Service without reservation. However, no one claims to have informed Lee, nor does anyone claim to have been notified. In contrast, people from Roh’s side, including Democratic Party lawmaker Moon Jae-in, have said they clearly sent the minutes to the National Archives of Korea. Their claims and reality are totally incompatible.

Their argument that the minutes kept at the National Intelligence Service can be treated the same way as presidential records is nonsense as well. The minutes at the spy agency is managed under the Public Record Management Act, while the minutes at the National Archives are handled under the Presidential Record Management Act. Two different acts are applied to those materials and how can they get the same treatment? Given that the minutes of the summit between the late President Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong Il are classified as state secret grade 2, the designation of the minutes on the Roh-Kim summit as state secret grade 1, which is far more complicated to view and be publicized, can hardly be construed as being results of Roh’s good will either.

There is even more absurd argument: The case does not constitute missing of historical records, because the copycat Easy One (presidential document management system), which Roh took with him to his hometown village of Bongha in South Gyeongsang Province, contains minutes, and these records are currently kept at the National Archive. The Easy-One at the village had been taken by Roh without undergoing due process, and was only grudgingly returned five months later after the Lee Myung-bak administration strongly raised issue. Had it not been for the Lee administration raising issue, the system might still be kept at the village. Since Bongha Village is not the National Archive, and the records would have remained undiscovered, had it not been for prosecutorial investigation, and how can such argument be justified? When suspicions was raised in October last year by then ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker Chung Moon-heon over Roh’s statement on the Northern Limit Line during his meeting with the late North Korean leader Kim, former Unification Minister Lee refuted Chung’s claim, saying, “NLL was not even mentioned at the inter-Korean summit.” Ex-minister Lee said, “If NLL was mentioned at the summit, it would have alarmed us, who were also attending the meeting, and we would have naturally raised issue. I testify this to the public in the name of my own dignity.” When the minutes kept at the National Intelligence Service were made public several months later, Lee’s remarks proved to be complete lies.

Apart from Roh’s remarks on NLL, the content in the minutes was simply disappointing. Then, members of the pro-Roh faction, and members of the Democratic Party raised suspicion over possible fabrication of the minutes kept at the state spy agency. But when authorities launched a probe to search for the “original” that was expected to be kept at the National Archives, to no avail, they then raised suspicion over possible discarding by the Lee Myung-bak administration. Prosecutorial probe however revealed that the documents were not handed over to the National Archives from the presidential office under Roh in the first place, and that it was none other than Roh’s side that that had discarded the original and secretively siphoned the document.”

There seems to be no end to lies, illogical claims, changes of argument, and excuses made by those in support of Roh. If mistakes are made public, those who are accountable should frankly admit to the mistakes and take responsibility, which in turn will elevate the public’s trust in them. It is difficult to understand why they play politics in such an ill-advised way. Do they consider the public idiots? They should know U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s epigram: "One can cheat people for a short time, and cheat one person for a long time, but one can never cheat all the people forever."