Ruling party charges former gov't officials over missing summit transcript

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- The ruling party filed a criminal charge Thursday against former government officials it believes are responsible for the disappearance of a 2007 inter-Korean summit transcript, prompting the prosecution to open an investigation.

The transcript had been the key to verifying claims by the ruling party that late South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun from the opposition bloc seriously undermined the country's sovereignty during his summit with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il by offering to surrender the western maritime border with the North.

To their surprise, the governing Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party discovered last week that the file could not be found at the National Archives of Korea, prompting questions as to whether it had been destroyed.

The ruling party claimed the former Roh administration destroyed the file so as to delete evidence of Roh's remarks during the summit, while the opposition party accused the government of Roh's successor, former President Lee Myung-bak, of tampering with it.

"A prosecution investigation is inevitable in order to correct this unprecedented situation in which a historical record has gone missing," Rep. Hong Ji-man, a floor spokesman of the ruling party, said in a press briefing at the National Assembly. "Our party thus decided to charge (those responsible)."

The charge, filed with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, calls for an investigation into Roh's former chief of staff Moon Jae-in, other unnamed officials of the Roh administration and undisclosed officials of the state archives agency under former President Lee.

Rep. Kim Han-gil, the chairman of the DP, criticized the ruling party's move.

"I've stressed that the two parties should first agree on matters concerning an investigation," he told reporters at the National Assembly. "(The ruling party's charge) is undesirable."

The rival parties have both called for a prosecution investigation into how the transcript has gone missing, but they disagree over the details of the probe.

The opposition party wants to appoint an independent counsel to look into the case, citing doubts about the prosecution's political neutrality. The ruling party, however, has expressed objection to the proposal, citing the time it would take for the two parties to agree on who the independent counsel should be as well as the subjects and length of the probe, among other details.

Following the ruling party's move, prosecutors said they launched an investigation into those suspected to be responsible for the disappearance of the summit minutes.

Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook pledged to thoroughly investigate suspicions that have ignited intense controversy among political parties recently.

"This is a high-profile case that has drawn intense public attention," Chae said during a meeting with senior prosecutors. "The probe should be carried out swiftly and thoroughly in accordance with the law and principle."

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