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Roh’s Remark Triggers Controversy

Posted January. 27, 2007 07:24,   


“The nation must have a party like the Uri Party. I implore you not to affiliate the party with me but instead support it.” That is President Roh Moo-hyun’s remark made during his New Year press conference on Thursday that is now triggering controversy among the political circles over whether it violated an election law.

Earlier, President Roh received a ruling from the Central Election Management Committee (CEMC) that he violated an election law on the charge of appealing for support at the special meeting organized by the Korea Broadcasting Reporters Club in February 2004 for the ruling Uri Party in the April general election.

That incident led to an impeachment of Roh, unheard of in the national constitutional history.

Regarding the president’s New Year’s message and press conference, Grand National Party (GNP) spokesperson Na Kyeong-won insisted on Friday, “President Roh intervened in the presidential election campaign by employing two positive strategies and two negative strategies: touting achievements under his administration and rallying support for Uri Party as the positive, while criticizing the GNP and dressing down its presidential hopefuls as the negative.”

Na stressed, “Whenever President Roh continues to breach the election law, the GNP will regard it as a deliberate and politically charged move and sternly respond.”

Democratic Party member Jo Sun-hyeong, who took the initiative in sponsoring an impeachment motion against Roh in 2004, pointed out during a radio interview on Thursday, “Given that the president made excessive political remarks, in particular, the ones which crossed the line meddling in the presidential election, it is likely that a controversy over his political neutrality on elections will arise.”

Democratic Labor Party (DLP) spokesperson Park Yong-jin also said, “As Roh’s remarks were designed to funnel public support into a certain party, the DLP will consider various responses, including sending inquiries to the CEMC.”

Meanwhile, the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling party seem to think that the charges against the president are absurd. Secretary to the President for Planning and Political Affairs Soh Mun-sang said in an article posted in a Cheong Wa Dae briefing, “The president is guaranteed to act as chief executive of the state and a member of a political party. Therefore, making an issue out of the president’s remarks asking for cooperation from his party members at a press conference is an attempt to restrain his freedom of political activity.”

On the same day, Uri Party Chairman Kim Geun-tae counterattacked the GNP at a party executives meeting in the party headquarters in Seoul, saying, “The GNP presidential hopefuls are already waging election campaigns outright.”

The CEMC, however, expressed its opinion that Roh’s remarks did not constitute an election law breach. Yang Geum-seok, an information officer of the watchdog agency, said, “The presidential election is still some time away, and neither the president’s message nor its frequency are deemed to be an inappropriate exercise of influence over the election, but when the opposition parties send inquiries, we will reply faithfully according to due process.”

tesomiom@donga.com jyw11@donga.com