Posted : 2013-07-22 16:22
Updated : 2013-07-22 16:22

National Archives of Korea draws fire

By Jun Ji-hye

The two main political parties are accusing each other of being responsible for the missing original records of the 2007 inter-Korean summit.

The ruling Saenuri Party claims that the Roh Moo-hyun government did not transfer the records to the National Archives of Korea (NAK) following his resignation, while the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) are pointing fingers at the former President Lee Myung-bak administration.

Which side is telling the truth remains to be seen, but experts say that the NAK-affiliated Presidential Archives is suspected of having been politically exploited and needs to secure neutrality in order to become a credible institution.

"The problem arose because the archives center is not an independent institution so it is affected by sitting administrations," said Bae Jong-chan, a director of Research & Research.

The archives center is supervised by the Ministry of Security and Public Administration.

Aides of sitting presidents have so far tended to become heads of the NAK-affiliated Presidential Archives. The term of office is five years, but no previous heads have so far completed their term, usually serving about two years each.

The first head of the Presidential Archives named in December 2007 was Lim Sang-kyung who was put in charge of Cheong Wa Dae record management during the Roh administration.

Lim was placed on the waiting list in July 2008 and was finally dismissed in November 2009 by former President Lee who claimed that Lim leaked presidential records by illegally producing copies of them.

Lee named Kim Sun-jin, one of his Cheong Wa Dae aides, as the new chief of the Presidential Archives in December 2009.

At the time, opposition and civic groups criticized Lee's decision claiming that he allowed his closest aide to politically use the records of former presidents, including Roh's.

Kim served in the position for less than two years and then was replaced in 2012 by Park Joon-ha who was assigned to Incheon City in April this year by the incumbent Park Gen-hye government.

Currently, the position of chief of the Presidential Archives remains vacant.

The first head Lim Sang-kyung and two other aides of late Roh argued in a statement that right after he took power, former President Lee replaced Roh's employees including Lim with his close aides in the archives center.

The three argued that there is a greater possibility that the Lee administration could use confidential records for the presidential campaign or for other political gain, or dispose of them altogether.

Research & Research's Bae said this is not the first time that political strife regarding confidential information has emerged.

"This is because each government used a different system to manage confidential information, and because of this, whenever the power is shifted, former and incumbent governments always clash and they become unable to trust each other, which is not good."

He said the government authorities should mull ways of guaranteeing the independence of the archives center because this would be the ultimate solution to more effectively managing confidential information in the national interest.

"It is very significant to give the archives center independence so that it becomes politically neutral like the Constitutional Court and other independent institutions," he said, adding that the head of the Presidential Archives should be appointed with the approval of the National Assembly.

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