Disclosure of Summit Transcripts Open Can of Worms

      June 26, 2013 13:02

      The National Intelligence Service's disclosure of transcripts from a 2007 inter-Korean summit on Monday has landed the spy agency in hot water, provoking outrage not only against former President Roh Moo-hyun but also against the NIS, which stands accused of an incurable addiction to meddling in politics.

      The NIS claims it disclosed the transcripts, which show Roh willing to redraw the de facto sea border with North Korea, to settle polarizing debate about what Roh exactly said when he met then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. But if the aim was to calm public opinion, it has had the opposite effect.

      Roh in the transcripts says the Northern Limit Line, which was drawn up unilaterally by the U.S.-led powers after the Korean War "is weirdly shaped and has turned into some sort of monster that can't be touched." He adds, "I agree with [Kim Jong-il]. The NLL should be changed."

      The debate has been going on since a conservative lawmaker last year published what he said were minutes of the meeting taken by an official, which exhibited the same drift. But Monday's disclosure only seems to have stoked vituperation on both sides.

      The Saenuri Party said the transcripts "shed light" on how the former president was willing to "abandon" the West Sea border, while the main opposition Democratic Party claimed Roh never meant to relinquish the NLL.

      Some pundits warned the disclosure of the transcripts could harm inter-Korean relations, which are already at a historic low, because the North would condemn the South for revealing confidential remarks from a leader the regime considers sacrosanct.

      Kim Keun-sik at Kyungnam University said this would hurt the trust-building process at the center of President Park Geun-hye's North Korea policy.

      One researcher with a state-run think tank said, "It will take a considerable amount of time for inter-Korean relations to be restored since comments made by Kim Jong-il, which North Koreans consider sacrosanct, have been revealed completely."

      Still others believe that the NIS has used sensitive matters of diplomacy and national security for political gain. The disclosure comes on the heels of allegations that the spy agency posted comments on the Internet ahead of the last presidential election to sway it in favor of Park, and is seen by some as a purely self-interested attempt to deflect criticism.

      One foreign diplomat based in Seoul said, "I don't understand why the transcripts of the summit had to be revealed" and added, "We're all watching the developments with great interest."

      Some lawmakers apparently also voiced concerns that the disclosure of the transcripts would cause other foreign leaders to think twice before they speak frankly to a South Korean president in the future.

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