+ A

Document trove from Park found in Blue House

New discoveries were electronic and stored in an intranet folder
Aug 29,2017
A massive number of digital documents created during the presidency of Park Geun-hye, including information on her alleged abuse of power, were discovered earlier this month, the Blue House said Monday.

“A total of 9,308 electronic documents including 292 records of cabinet meetings, 221 records of senior secretariat meetings hosted by the president and 202 records on senior secretariat meetings hosted by the chief of staff” were found, presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.

The documents were created electronically between 2013 and January 2015, according to Park. They were discovered on Aug. 10, 2017, in a shared folder on the intranet used by the second presidential secretary’s office in the Park Geun-hye Blue House, he said. Park, who took office in February 2013, was impeached in December 2016. She was formally ousted from the presidency in March this year after the Constitutional Court ruled that she allowed a friend to interfere in state affairs for private gain. Park and the friend, Choi Soon-sil, are currently standing trial for alleged bribe-taking and abuse of power.

It was the fourth announcement by the Blue House of President Moon Jae-in, who was elected and took office in May, that sensitive records of his predecessor were discovered. In July, the Blue House made three announcements that lengthy paper trails left behind by Park aides were discovered. All of them were paper documents, while the latest announcement was about electronic files.

“Some files concerned the former president’s alleged abuse of power to influence state affairs for her private gains, such as a blacklist of cultural community figures,” Park said.

Top aides to Park were sentenced to prison in July for creating and operating a blacklist of artists and cultural figures critical of the government, which they used to systemically oppress the artists and cut off state funding of their projects. Kim Ki-choon, once presidential chief of staff, and Kim Jong-deok, a former culture minister, were among those convicted.

The presidential spokesman said the Blue House will hand over the discovered data to the Presidential Archives. It will also offer copies to concerned authorities if they are related to ongoing investigations and trials, he said.

Documents the Blue House considers worth saving are designated presidential records under the law and are given to the presidential archive at the end of a president’s term. After the Constitutional Court ended Park’s term in March, the Blue House classified records to be sent to the archive, designating many to be sealed for 30 years.

According to Presidential Spokesman Park, the shared folder was left abandoned after the Park Blue House shut down the second personal secretary’s office when it reshuffled the secretariat on Jan. 23, 2015.

Ahn Bong-geun, one of the former president’s longtime associate, served as second personal secretary before the reshuffle. He, then, was appointed public affairs planning secretary until Park’s presidency ended. Ahn, along with Jeong Ho-seong and Lee Jae-man, was referred to as the “three door knobs” for controlling access to the president.

The office of the second personal secretary traditionally assists a first lady. During Park’s presidency, the office managed her private affairs as she did not have a spouse. It was later revealed that the office offered support for her friend Choi, including her secret visits to the Blue House.

Ahn was indicted for having refused to attend National Assembly hearings last year. The trial will begin Friday.

Presidential spokesman Park admitted that the Moon Blue House was aware that electronic files created by the previous administration remained in shared folders on the intranet since the early days of his presidency, but did not pay special attention because most of them, at first glance, looked trivial. According to him, the Park Blue House deleted all data on the system and personal computers at the end of her term, but some data remained because some officials continued to serve in the Moon Blue House.

While the shared folder of the second personal secretary’s office was left abandoned for years, a staffer discovered it on Aug. 10, 2017, while trying to connect a scanner to a computer. After reviewing it for the past weeks, the Blue House concluded it contained sensitive materials.

According to Park, the electronic data cover a different time period of the Park presidency from the paper documents discovered in July.

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