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Korean Cover-Up

Did South Korea’s former president destroy a damning document?

1:47 PM, Jul 23, 2013 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
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Roh (pronounced “No”) Moo-hyun, the startlingly left-wing president of South Korea from 2003 to 2008, offered a remarkable concession to the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il at a summit in Pyongyang in 2007. According to partial transcripts of the meeting, which were released for the first time last year by the South's intelligence services, President Roh, who committed suicide in 2009, offered to stand down from the hotly disputed maritime border between North and South Korea. Even though the two Koreas remain technically at war, and despite the fact that the brutal dictatorship in North routinely violates the maritime border (most notably in 2010, when the North sunk a South Korean naval vessel, killing 46 sailors), Roh envisaged turning the border area into a "peace-economy zone," where both the North and South would be allowed to fish. This would have represented a major concession to the North, which has agitated against the border for decades.

"I agree with the chairman," said President Roh, referring to Kim Jong-il by his official title, "the [border] should be changed." Echoing North Korean propaganda, he added, "The [border] is weirdly shaped and has turned into some sort of monster that can't be touched . . .There's no basis for it under international law, and its logical basis is unclear ... but in reality, it has strong power."

That's all bad enough. But things took a turn for the worse this week, when a bipartisan group of lawmakers attempted to find a full copy of the transcript of the meeting in South Korea's national archives. After a week of searching, the legislators announced that they were unable to find a copy of the transcript of the conversation. That led South Korea's ruling party to announce in a statement that it wonders "if the original transcript of the inter-Korean summit was destroyed on former President Roh's orders."' That would give new meaning to the phrase "see Roh evil." 

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