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Park Blue House left no records

Server and computers were found empty in a breach of protocol
May 18,2017
The Park Geun-hye Blue House has created a controversy by leaving behind no records before President Moon Jae-in took office last week.

“We checked the Blue House records and nothing was in the Blue House server and the computers,” a senior presidential official said Tuesday. “We will investigate why no records were handed over.”

He added, “The online system for the transition should contain something, but there was nothing. All we received was a report that contains several pages.”

Documents of the Blue House considered worth saving are designated as presidential records under the law and kept at the presidential archive after a president’s term ends, while others remain at the Blue House.

After the Constitutional Court ended Park’s term in March, the Blue House started classifying records to be sent to the presidential archives, designating many to be sealed for 30 years. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who was acting president at the time, approved the requests in May. Former aides to Park claim their handling of the documents was lawful.

“The law governing the management of public records says records that are not sent to the Presidential Archives must be destroyed completely and irreversibly,” a former aide to Park said. “The Moon Blue House is making a political attack.”

The Moon Blue House admitted there is no law requiring that a predecessor leave records behind.

“We will have an internal investigation to determine if the records were sent to the Presidential Archives [or destroyed systemically],” a senior presidential official said.

The Presidential Archives under the Interior Ministry said it received 11.06 million items from the Park Blue House as of May 9, including items during Hwang’s governance. This is more than it received at the end of former President Lee Myung-bak’s term. It added that it has no idea what the list of archived items contains, because Park Blue House even sealed the list. “To check this,” a source from the Archives said, “we need a consensus by two-thirds of the National Assembly or a warrant from a high court chief justice.”

The Presidential Archives Act allows records that concern the military, foreign affairs or North Korea that may threaten national security to be sealed for a certain period of time. Records concerning the private life of the president can also be sealed for up to 30 years.

The sealed records include all reports created at the Blue House on the day of the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16, 2014. Park’s absence for the first seven hours of the disaster has become a matter of national controversy, though it was not cited as grounds for her impeachment.

After being briefed by security and inspection officials of the National Intelligence Service, Defense Security Command of the military, prosecution and police on Tuesday, Senior Civil Affairs Secretary Cho Kuk ordered key government offices in charge of law enforcement and intelligence to stop destroying records.

“To avoid misunderstanding,” a presidential source said. “We are asking that unauthorized destroying, deleting and leaks of electronic and paper documents be stopped.”

Throughout her presidency, Park was criticized for her lack of communication and secretive behavior. It was later revealed that her longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, who held no public office, was involved in state affairs, leading to Park’s impeachment in December.

She was permanently removed from office in March and a snap election took place on May 9. Moon formally took office on Wednesday without a transition period.

Song Gi-ho, an attorney with Minbyun-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, filed a petition to the Presidential Archives on May 8 to access the records on the day of the Sewol ferry’s sinking and documents concerning the Park government’s “comfort women” settlement with Japan in December 2015.

“The records on Sewol do not pose a serious threat to national security,” Song said. “If my petition for information disclosure is rejected, I will bring the case to court.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]