Transcript shows Roh called for changing NLL

SEOUL, June 24 (Yonhap) -- The late South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun called for changing the disputed Yellow Sea border with North Korea into a "peace-economy zone" during a 2007 summit with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, according to a transcript released Monday.

The remarks, contained in the summit transcript, were released by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers on the parliamentary intelligence committee earlier in the day.

Ruling party lawmakers immediately denounced Roh's remarks on the maritime border, called the northern limit line (NLL), as undermining South Korea's sovereignty.

The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) questioned the authenticity of the document and refused to receive the 100-page transcript hand-carried by NIS officials.

The disclosure is expected to have deep political repercussions amid claims by the DP that the spy agency is trying to divulge state secrets in an attempt to divert public outrage away from another scandal involving the NIS.

The scandal refers to allegations that former spy agency chief, Won Sei-hoon, ordered an online smear campaign to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling party ahead of last December's presidential election.

The NIS said it decided to make the summit records public as controversy continues over Roh's alleged remarks about the sea border.

The opposition party said it will not hesitate to disclose the full contents of the transcript but only after a parliamentary probe into the alleged online smear campaign has been done.

"I agree with the chairman (Kim Jong-il). The NLL should be changed," Roh was quoted as saying in the eight-page excerpt. He was addressing the North Korean leader by his official title -- chairman of the National Defense Commission.

"But in reality, people who don't even know the details of the issue react to it sensitively and make lots of noise," Roh said, according to the excerpt. "That is why we would like to propose drawing a peace-economy map on top of the security-military map."

Roh also proposed creating a joint cooperation zone in the Yellow Sea, which would include joint fishing areas and sea routes linking the two Koreas, according to the text.

"If we build a peaceful cooperation zone in the Yellow Sea, agree to resolve all issues of peace and joint prosperity through it and continue to hold working-level discussions on it, all NLL-related issues will be cured during my term," Roh was quoted as saying.

The excerpts include only remarks allegedly made by Roh during the summit, and in the absence of any remarks made by the North Korean leader, it was difficult to figure out in what context he actually made such remarks.

North Korea has never recognized the NLL, which was drawn unilaterally by the U.S.-led United Nations Command when the 1950-53 Korean War ended. Pyongyang has long demanded that the line be drawn farther south.

The NLL was the scene of two bloody naval clashes between the two Korean states in 1999 and 2002 which resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. In 2010, the North torpedoed a South Korean warship and shelled a South Korean island in the border area.

During his term of office in 2003-8, Roh publicly broached that the disputed sea area will be made into a joint fishing zone, saying that the idea, if pushed through, would help ease military tension on the peninsula. Roh repeated the proposal during the summit.

"The NLL is weirdly shaped and has turned into some sort of monster that can't be touched," he said in the transcript. "There's no basis for it under international law, and its logical basis is unclear ... but in reality, it has strong power."

Roh, who had served one five-year term from 2003, had liberal leanings and sought greater reconciliation with the communist neighbor. His alleged remarks are consistent with the claims Pyongyang has long made about the sea border.

The allegations about Roh's remarks were first raised by a ruling party lawmaker ahead of last December's presidential election when Roh's former chief of staff, Moon Jae-in, was running as the opposition party's presidential contender.

On Monday, Moon threatened to take legal action against the NIS for declassifying and disclosing the transcript.

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