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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on July 24)
Lost presidential records
Stop partisan strife and make joint efforts to find truth

At first, the political football was about whether and how the National Intelligence Service meddled in elections. Then the state spy agency cleverly shifted focus to former president Roh Moo-hyun’s alleged abandonment of a maritime border during the 2007 inter-Korean summit. Now the issue is where the summit records have gone to and who lost or destroyed them. Few are talking about the NIS’s political intervention.

   This is how the two major political parties have spent a considerable part of their time over the past 10 months. All the while, the Northern Limit Line remains as just as it has since it was drawn in 1953, nor have the North Koreans raised any issue regarding it. It was only the perennially bickering politicians who cared what the late leader said about the NLL.

   Now that the ruling and opposition parties have failed to find the minutes of the summit dialogues between the two dead leaders of Koreas, they have only to leave this matter to the prosecution to find out why and who are to take responsibility for the loss of the presidential records.

   There is one caveat, though: both parties should agree to accept the results of an investigation instead of making it the source of further political warfare. This of course requires prosecutors to observe political neutrality as a precondition.
The opposition Democratic Party may want to continue the search until it can confirm the late President Roh never expressed an intention to give up the West Sea maritime border in favor of a joint peace zone. But it had better not. As we said earlier, what Roh actually said concerning the NLL wasn’t an important issue in the first place. The DP should instead cooperate in the probe to help find the whereabouts of the records or why the documents are not where they should be.

   Nor should the ruling Saenuri Party remain complacent about the political gains from not only successfully diverting attention away from the spy agency’s wrongdoing but pressing the DP to take responsibility for the lost records. Voters know who started all these political brawls and for what purposes.
This was a political football where there could be no winners and all were destined to be losers ― the parties, the people and the nation ― as the representatives of the people spent their precious time on their own interests, not on the voters who elected them.

   The biggest loss of all in the ongoing fray is that of the priceless principle to preserve administrative records and keep their secrecy for a sufficient time. Now that the precedent of opening up the classified records by a government organization and, later by politicians’ agreement has been set, few future presidents will neither make nor preserve records on state administration sincerely.
Already, former President Lee Myung-bak has reportedly deep-sixed most of the records concerning many of his controversial projects, including the river restoration works. Compare this with the United States where presidents are required to preserve even their email records.
The scandal has made South Korea a very funny and strange country. The only way to make it less shameful and painful is to use it as an occasion to reaffirm the importance of making, keeping and handing over historical records faithfully.