The political Mr. RohDoes President Roh Moo-hyun have the will to keep a fair and neutral stance during this year’s presidential election campaign? At a press conference Thursday, he repeatedly made political remarks to boost the Uri Party, and criticized opposition parties’ presidential contenders. The four opposition parties complained, saying that he failed in the duty of civil servants to be politically neutral. But the Blue House rebutted that criticism by saying a request for the president to remain politically neutral does not make sense either in terms of the law or common sense.
During the campaign for the National Assembly elections in April 2004, President Roh made a remark asking for support for an Uri candidate, and received a warning from the National Election Commission about violating the election law. That was one of the reasons that he was impeached. Now he has created a similar problem, instead of thinking seriously what he did wrong the first time.
Mr. Roh said, “I would like to ask you not to link me and the Uri Party, and help the party.” The Blue House insists that he made the remark not as a president who must be politically neutral, but as an Uri Party member.
That’s a weak excuse. Did he hold the press conference the other day also as a senior member of the Uri Party? Nobody but the president can appear on major broadcast outlets exclusively as many as four times a month. The duty of civil servants, including the president, to be politically neutral is stipulated in the law to prevent them from misusing their privileges for political purposes.
The president said he would continue to present policy priorities that would be major issues in the campaign, in addition to his bid to amend the constitution to adopt a two-term presidency. He also said he would react firmly if opposition candidates resisted his policies. That means he will propose policies by taking advantage of his position and use them as weapons to attack opposition presidential bidders. The president could not intervene in the campaign more actively than that. Policies that the president draws up with the help of civil servants in the administration are not his or his party’s assets, but the government’s.
We urge the president to keep his hands off politics and instead focus on developing ways to improve the people’s livelihood. A free trade agreement with the United States and reform of the national pension program cannot be left as burdens for the following administration. These jobs will be difficult enough to complete, and Mr. Roh should work hard on them.