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Plan for separate archive scrapped by president

Sept 12,2019
The government’s controversial plan to build a separate archive for President Moon Jae-in was shelved Wednesday, after Moon himself shut it down.

“Moon did not order that a separate presidential archive be built for him,” presidential spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said Wednesday.

“He said he understands the background, but he does not understand why his administration would have to start it. He said he was perplexed to see the news reports on the issue.”

The National Archives of Korea, supervised by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, said Tuesday that it plans to build a separate presidential archive to store the records of the Moon administration.

The project, aimed to be completed by May 2022 in time with the end of Moon’s presidential tenure, will cost 17.2 billion won ($14.4 million) of the budget, the National Archives said.

After the project faced public criticism, the Blue House defended Moon by saying that he never gave the order for the archive to be established.

“The president said the National Archives needs to make a judgment on what it needs to do,” Ko said Wednesday. “But he made it clear that he does not want a separate presidential archive.”

The National Archives said Tuesday that the exclusive archive for Moon was planned because it needs more storage. “The presidential archives in Sejong City are 83.7 percent filled, so we need to expand the facility,” an official from the National Archives said Tuesday.

As of now, records on all 11 former presidents are stored and managed at the Presidential Archives in Sejong, which started operation in 2016.

The opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) was furious about the plan to build an exclusive archive for Moon.

“Many people are having difficult times making ends meet, but the president, who still needs to serve half of his term, is saying he wants to spend tax money to build his archive,” Rep. Na Kyung-won, LKP floor leader, said Tuesday.

“The project’s budgets and operation cost will be paid by tax money, and the head of the archive will be recommended by Moon,” Na also said, vowing to cut the entire budget the administration wants.

Another LKP lawmaker said the Blue House was behind the plan. Rep. Park Wan-su of the LKP said the National Archives have consulted with the Blue House about the project from January till March and reported it to the interior minister in May.

Other LKP officials said the government has a political motive behind the project.

They said they want to block any outside attempts to access the records of the Moon administration by safekeeping them in the separate archive, managed by an ally of Moon.

According to the proposal, information classified as presidential secrets was to be stored in the new archive.

It is not the first time that the management of the presidential records became a subject of controversy.

At the end of his term in 2008, President Roh Moo-hyun took a computer server and digital storage, which contained copies of 769,000 Blue House files.

The action was criticized as illegal, and he returned it after an investigation by the National Archives.

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