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[Editorials] Too Many Problems with National Referendum

Posted October. 13, 2003 22:48,   


President Roh Moo-hyun chose to put his faith in the hands of the public by proposing to hold a national referendum this coming December 15. Four days have already passed since he has publicly mentioned his intentions. It seems as if President Roh is taking this very important constitutional and political controversy too much in his own way.

The three main political parties: The Grand National Party, The Millennium Democratic Party, and the newly formed New Party 21, all have different perspectives over holding a national referendum. A national referendum should not be held without having in consideration all these different views. If the president should hold a national referendum simply because he has the power to do so, the aftermath could lead the nation into a worse situation. Sufficient verification of the issue as well as its reasonability must be thoroughly studied and analyzed before any moves are made. In the case that a national referendum is held and President Roh stays in office, the effects could be more negative than positive.

The Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae) must move quickly in having a conference with the nation’s political parties in order to discuss the issue. The nation’s leaders must come together and specifically discuss whether holding a national referendum is lawfully and realistically correct. The most important matter of this issue is the legality of the situation. Article 72 of the National Constitution states that “the president holds within his power to hold a national referendum over matters of diplomacy, national security, unification, and other matters if he sees it as necessary.”

However, the problem is whether or not President Roh’s reason for proposing a national referendum fits into Article 72. The reason President Roh gave for holding a national referendum was the corruption amongst his associates and people close to him, and the resulting distrust of the public. Many specialists claim that President Roh’s reason is unconstitutional. President Roh has stated that even though the situation might not exactly agree with Article 72, if a political agreement is accomplished, the situation could be molded into an operative law; this statement makes questioning President Roh’s legal mentality unavoidable.

President Roh is trying to extend his problem with corruption amongst his associates and the people around him into a matter concerning national politics; this is not the kind of attitude a person expecting public judgment should take. He has stated after his national referendum proposal that this will be the first step in expelling corruption; corruption within his inner circle is not corruption within the whole Korean political arena. First of all, prosecution authorities investigating corruption within President Roh’s inner circle must not receive any sort of outside influence and the president must give a truthful confession. Without both premises satisfied, it will be hard for President Roh’s argument stating “national referendum and political reformation” to be seen as anything other than a political strategy to avoid the current turmoil.