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Roh Risks His Presidency

Posted December. 14, 2003 22:49,   


President Roh Moo-hyun said on Sunday that he would be willing to resign from the presidency if illicit election funds spent from his party last year turned out to be more than one tenth of those from the Grand National Party.

In a meeting with four leaders of major political parties at Cheong Wa Dae on Sunday morning, Yoon Tae-young, its spokesperson, indicated that President Roh said, “Some are saying that the prosecution’s probe (into presidential campaign funds) is unfair, but I will take full responsibility for what the probe reveals, even if I was not aware of them.”

Just after the meeting, Rep. Choe Byung-yul, Chairman of the GNP, and Rep. Kim Won-Ki , Co-leader of the Woori Party, delivered Roh’s message that he would “quit his presidential post.” Cheong Wa Dae, however, explained, “President Roh didn’t say the words of stepping down from his post, but it can be included in the range of political resignation.”

Roh’s remarks are likely to raise controversy on the issue of illicit campaign funds and the examination of how substantial the truth of the allegation.

President Roh also added that he would receive an inspection of his own campaign funds from the special counsel if the National Assembly demands, as soon as the prosecution’s probe into campaign funds is completed.

During the meeting, Rep. Choe of the GNP and the chairman of the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) Rep. Chough Soon-hyung urged that a national referendum on the confidence to the President, which is against the constitution, should be withdrawn. President Roh’s response was, “I agree with the opinion that it is impossible to execute a national referendum, but will make a final decision considering my charge on conscientiousness and objective of responsible politics when the real facts are disclosed by the prosecution.”

Meanwhile, concerning the troop dispatch to Iraq, President Roh and four major party leaders were of similar opinion that 3000 troops with independent charge of the designated area would be ideal. President Roh plans to hold a security officials meeting within the week to draw up a detailed plan to submit to the National Assembly on December 23, regarding a motion for a bill to dispatch troops.

The accepted parts of the troop dispatch plan during the meeting included dispatching 1400 special combat soldiers and 1600 non-combat soldiers for rehabilitation support, and combat troops should take roles of both self-security and support on Iraqi soldiers and polices that are in charge of local security.

Meanwhile, Rep. Chough of the MDP suggested that Cheong Wa Dae and the Cabinet should reorganize their staff in terms of political reform. But President Roh reaffirmed a small scale of year-end reshuffling, saying, “In the past, we used to produce short-term ministers in the name of reform when the Presidential power was weak, which eventually resulted in failure. Ministers should not be changed often for political purposes.”

Jeong-Hun Kim jnghn@donga.com