Prosecutors are expected to summon key aides and officials of the former Roh Moo-hyun administration from next week in an investigation into why the 2007 inter-Korean summit transcript was not transferred to the National Archives.
Rival parties, meanwhile, continued to hurl invective over the transcript controversy, signaling a tougher National Assembly session already mired in disputes over a backtracked pension pledge and reform of the National Intelligence Service.
Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office's second division for public security has sent summons to about 30 officials who worked at Cheong Wa Dae at the time. Former presidential secretary for records Im Sang-kyeong and former secretary for security Cho Myung-kyun are among those to be questioned. Former chief of staff Rep. Moon Jae-in and former NIS chief Kim Man-bok may also face summons, according to reports.
The prosecution announced Wednesday that the summit transcript had been deleted from the e-Jiwon system and that while another version exists in the system at Roh's retirement home in Bongha, South Gyeongsang Province, this version had also not been handed over to the National Archive as it should have been at the end of the administration. The e-Jiwon system was the archive system used at the presidential office during the Roh administration.
Upon confirming that the transcript does not exist at the National Archives, with no trace of the data having been deleted or transferred out of the agency, prosecutors concluded that the records had not been handed over to the agency from the beginning.
Based on Article 11 of the Act on the Management of Presidential Archives, presidential record repositories must transfer presidential records to the central records management institution before the presidential term ends. Article 30 states that anyone who destroys or removes records without permission will be punished by imprisonment of up to 10 years or by a fine not exceeding 30 million won (S$34,800). Those who conceal, divulge or alter records without permission are subject to up to 7 years in prison or a fine of up to 20 million won (S$23,200).
As the probe appeared to narrow down the people and circumstances behind the controversy, Kyunghyang Shinmun reported that Roh allegedly ordered revision of the original summit transcript, saying that some of the wording had been misconstrued. Reports said the first draft was deleted upon orders from security secretary Cho, and that the revision was applied in the version that was left in Bongha that is identical to the one disclosed by the NIS this August.
The ruling Saenuri Party called the case an "unprecedented incident that puts the nation into chaos," and demanded relevant officials and Rep. Moon take responsibility.
"Having taken the transcript back home (Bongha) conforms to stealing an official document and a clear act of violation," said Saenuri floor leader Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan.
"DP Rep. Moon is not saying a word and it is the ultimate show of irresponsibility after he had even vowed to stake his political life on it."
Moon had jumped into the fray in June when the NIS disclosed its version of the summit transcript, stoking political wrangling over whether Roh had made remarks to nullify the Northern Limit Line, a sea border with the North in the West Sea, during talks with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Moon demanded they look into the transcript kept at the National Archives to get to the truth and vowed to stake his political life on Roh never having made such comments.
After the rival lawmakers failed to find the transcript at the National Archives, Moon had said in July that he would bear due responsibility if there had been any oversight on his part.
Moon, upon the prosecution's interim probe results, said he would state his position later.
The main opposition Democratic Party questioned the timing of the prosecution's interim probe results and accused the ruling camp of using the incident to distract from the pension controversy and the allegedly forced resignation of former prosecutor general Chae Dong-wook.
"Hastily announcing the investigation results, without summoning the Roh administration officials who had already promised to cooperate, is only leading to political wrangling through various speculation and interpretations," said DP chairman Kim Han-gil.
Urging the prosecution to thoroughly investigate and clearly state only the confirmed facts, Kim also criticised the ruling camp for concluding that the transcript was lost, citing how some ruling party lawmakers used excerpts from the transcript during the presidential campaign last year.
"Consuming speculation is of no help to the national interest. (The prosecution) must also swiftly and strictly probe the suspected pre-leak of the transcript by President Park Geun-hye's election campaign team and whether they used it in their campaign."
In the run up to the election, Saenuri Party lawmakers alleged that Roh conceded the NLL to the North in their campaign against Park's rival, Moon.