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President Roh under Pressure, Trying to Ease Tensions

Posted May. 21, 2003 21:40,   


President Roh Moo-hyun Wednesday complained about the recent series of insurgent actions by students and other interest groups. "I feel a sense of crisis that I may not be able to accomplish my duties as President because everyone is attempting to gain strides through force," Mr. Roh said.

While meeting with pastor Kang Shin-sok and others who organized the ceremony in Gwangju Sunday to commemorate the anniversary of the May 18 pro-democracy uprising, Roh reacted negatively to their demands that the government refrain from severe punitive measures against Hanchongnyeon. The student`s group staged a rally in front of the main gate of the cemetery where the event was held, forcing Roh to enter through a back gate.

”It does not matter whether the government shows a lenient attitude to those who express their opinion by means of force. We need to act more prudently when we state our demands. In addition, we need to feel a sense of responsibility for the results that our collective actions might bring. The adults in our society should point out what is wrong or inappropriate when our young people make a mistake,” the President said.

"The functioning of the government will be paralyzed [if radical demonstrations continue)," Roh said. "Although they may be promoting a righteous cause, how can we manage society if they continue to do such things?"

On the threat by the National Teachers` Union to stage a strike in opposition to the National Education Information System, Roh asked, "What meaning will the decision-making process of the government have if they deny the functions of the government because of their causes?"

During the meeting, President Roh repeatedly said that he felt a sense of crisis that he might not be able to accomplish his duties as president if the current situation continues.

Organizers of the 5.18 ceremony in Gwangju asked the President for the government`s generosity towards students` rudeness, extending their sincere apology for the incident. However, the President instructed senior presidential secretary for state affairs to take proper actions regarding the issue based on his judgment.

It has been known that Wednesday`s meeting was arranged at the request of the organizers of the ceremony.

Meanwhile, Yoo In-tae, senior presidential secretary for state affairs, hinted that the government will actively consider leniency towards those students involved in the demonstration at the 5.18 National Cemetery. “According to the preliminary investigation based on information that was collected, we reached a conclusion that the incident took place by accident,” he said.

Chung Wa Dae delivered its message to the national police leadership through Hu Joon-young, an aide for public order.

Young-Hae Choi Jeong-Hun Kim yhchoi65@donga.com jnghn@donga.com