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2007/01/12

[轉載] Roh stumps for 2 terms

 

[韓國中央日報] Basic law change a ‘historic duty,' he says, flaying the opposition January 12, 2007  http://joongangdaily.joins.com/200701/11/200701112215115209900090309031.html President Roh Moo-hyun went on the offensive yesterday in calling for a constitutional change to give future Korean presidents a chance at a second term of office. At a news conference convened on short notice, the president took on his critics and dropped a few additional bombshells while he was at it. 

▶ President Roh Moo-hyun, center, with Uri Chairman Kim Geun-tae, left, and the party's floor leader, Kim Han-gill, before their lunch yesterday. [YONHAP] First, he said that he would consider resigning from the Uri Party if opposition parties demanded it as a price for accepting his proposed constitutional amendment. It is not entirely clear who would be appeased by that offer; the conservative opposition, the Grand National Party, has more than a small interest in keeping Mr. Roh attached to Uri so that it can link the unpopular president with the party's candidate in the Dec. 19 presidential election campaign. But even there, a sub-theme emerges; it is not clear that Uri will survive in its present form to contest that election; it appears likely to splinter under the pressure of Uri's own efforts to fight the next election battle under a new and less controversial name. The party is also split between supporters of the president's policies and pragmatists who see Mr. Roh as an albatross around its neck. Before the press conference, Mr. Roh had lunch with the Uri Party leadership, a meeting that was to have included leaders of all other political parties here. Led by the Grand Nationals, all opposition parties declined to participate. At the lunch, according to Woo Sang-ho, the party's spokesman, the floor leader Kim Han-gill said Mr. Roh might consider giving up his party membership and form a bipartisan cabinet to prove his political impartiality in promoting the amendment. Mr. Woo said the president promised to consider such a course, but added that Mr. Roh was speaking in general of concessions that might help the amendment in the Assembly, not specifically of resigning from the party. Several other themes sounded by the president seemed to support the hypothesis that Mr. Roh's intent in offering the amendment now after seemingly rejecting the idea last year was indeed political. In this theory, Mr. Roh wanted to redraw the battle lines in Korean politics to isolate the Grand National Party, which polls suggest would send its candidate to the Blue House if the election were held today, and unite the faction-ridden Uri camp and other moderates and liberals in a political grouping strong enough to turn that GNP tide. He pounded away at the Grand Nationals as "undemocratic" for rejecting discussions with him on the amendment, and several times referred to them as "dictatorial." "That party is smothering my proposal, acting as if it does not want to deal democratically," Mr. Roh said, "It is not the right attitude for a political party - it's a suppression of democracy." Urging presidential contenders to speak out on the matter, Mr. Roh said, "It is contradictory for them to talk of their plans for the next five years while they are ignoring the pending issue right now." Although his staff the day before had rejected meetings with presidential hopefuls because they had no political standing yet, Mr. Roh said that he would like to talk with them. He added sadly, however, that they would probably not accept such an invitation because all parties but Uri refused his offer to meet yesterday. Speaking of his determination to complete his term, Mr. Roh told the news conference and Koreans watching on national television, "Even if my proposal fails in the National Assembly, I don't think it would be a vote of no confidence in me. I'm only exercising my legal rights and doing my historic duty, and I don't have to bet the people's confidence in me for that." Even the Grand Nationals cautiously accepted that statement, at least for the time being. Na Kyung-won, the Grand National spokeswoman, said, "For the moment, we choose to believe him, but we still think there's a possibility that Mr. Roh might give up his remaining term." Asked why he changed his mind and abruptly proposed the amendment, Mr. Roh said that it would have damaged his administration to have done so last year. "But now," he continued, "many projects of the administration have been completed, and I think the results are not bad. With one year left, I believed I could no longer turn my eyes away from the amendment issue and should do my presidential duty." Mr. Roh was also scathing in combating complaints that he was proposing the amendment for his own political gain, even if critics have not articulated just what those gains for an outgoing president might be. Yesterday, he accused those critics of seeking their own political gain by flatly rejecting his proposal. He cited by name the Grand National Party and Korea's three leading national daily newspapers, the Chosun Ilbo, Joong-Ang Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo, and complained that they had supported such an amendment in the past. "They are objecting for objection's sake," he said vehemently, "because it is my proposal," and reiterated his logic: Next year is the only opportunity for 20 years to synchronize Assembly and presidential terms without shortening or lengthening the tenure of incumbents. The president now has a single five-year term; Assembly members are in office for four years. He assured Koreans that he could handle the national administration and guide an amendment through the political process at the same time. He also said he would have no other political changes to offer, such as a redistricting of National Assembly seats. He has in the past proposed changes to legislative districts, including multi-member districts, to combat the traditional Korean emphasis on regional rivalries. "Changes to constituencies might harm the Grand National Party, which has strong support in one region, so I will not propose it," he said. "But the term amendment will do neither good nor harm to any political element." All the smaller political parties, after internal debates, decided late Wednesday night to reject the invitation to yesterday's Blue House lunch, following the Grand Nationals' swifter decision to boycott it. Provoked, the Blue House staff debated internally until yesterday morning and finally decided to continue, with only Uri's leadership at the table. At the luncheon, Mr. Roh said bitterly, "The Grand National Party seems to have this arrogance that comes from their loathing of the president. I have to be worried about the future of the country." Chun Yu-ok, a senior Grand National, put her suspicions about Mr. Roh's motives into words yesterday, saying, "The Blue House is trying to form an anti-Grand National Party coalition." Mr. Yoon, the Blue House spokesman, said the remark was not worthy of comment. GNP Chairman Kang Jae-sup reacted icily when asked to comment on the president's press conference. "It's not worthy of comment," he replied. It was to Ms. Na, the spokeswoman, who called it full of "irrational logic," adding that the proposal was dying like a tempest in a teacup. Reacting to his proposal to resign from his party, she said, "A constitutional amendment is not something you can treat as a give-and-take proposition." Spokesmen for the smaller parties were equally negative about the proposal and Mr. Roh's press conference. Undeterred, Mr. Roh's aides met yesterday with the nation's senior Buddhist and Roman Catholic leaders to bid for their support, and other staff blitzed the airwaves to support the amendment. by Chun Su-jin



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