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The past comes back to bite

Apr 22,2017
A decision made by the Blue House 10 years ago could shake up next month’s presidential election.

It boils down to whether the presidential office really sought Pyongyang’s advice before abstaining from a UN vote on North Korea’s human rights record in 2007. After then-Foreign Minister Song Min-soon released a memo describing the sensitive moment, Moon Jae-in, a presidential candidate from the Democratic Party who is currently leading in polls, denied it.

As the case involves a front-runner’s honesty, attacks from other candidates will most likely intensify. Moon’s fuzzy answer to a debate question on whether North Korea is our primary enemy state only fueled further controversy. During a debate on Wednesday, Moon said such a definition was not one for the president to make.

The controversy over the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s solicitation of Pyongyang’s views on the UN vote is nothing new after Song revealed the situation in a memoir published last October. He wrote that Moon, then Roh’s chief of staff, concluded the matter by proposing to first gauge Pyongyang’s reaction to the vote. At the time, Moon said he could not remember.

During Wednesday’s debate, however, he backed down and said he just wanted to monitor the North’s reaction. Moon changed his position but nevertheless argued that he did not try to gauge the North’s reaction in advance.

After the debate, however, Song made public government documents that sharply contrast with what Moon said. The documents included Pyongyang’s position that “South Korea’s act of voting for the UN resolution can never be justified because it violates an agreement between Seoul and Pyongyang.” Despite a strong attacks from Song and other presidential contenders for “telling a lie,” Moon once again denied it.

However, a core member of the Roh administration has now presented quite reliable government documents that even include a remark from President Roh that, “I did not want to size up Pyongyang’s reaction before the vote, but Moon so desperately wanted to.” If that’s really what happened, the authorities must dig up the truth behind such a shameful decision. The government must get to the bottom of this case before it’s too late.

A president’s views on North Korea and national security affect the lives of our people directly and immediately. Moon should be able to present his clear strategy on security instead of showing an opaque attitude and must make clear what really happened 10 years ago.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 22, Page 26