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Roh: No confidence in doing my job

Roh has been slammed for his blunt management style.
Roh has been slammed for his blunt management style.

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Roh Moo-Hyun
South Korea
Seoul (South Korea)

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Embattled South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has called for a confidence vote to see if he should continue to rule, and says he will step down if he loses.

"I reached a situation in which I cannot conduct the presidency," Roh said in a televised speech on Monday.

"I have no confidence in doing my job under this situation."

Roh, who was elected for a five-year term last December, has been plagued by a series of corruption scandals involving his closest aides, leaving him open to assembly and media criticism.

A former close aide has been mired in a funding scandal involving South Korea's conglomerate SK Global, which has hurt the president's standing with the public, and seen his popularity dive.

Roh tried to calm the political turmoil by rejecting resignations from his cabinet and aides on Saturday, but he has said in the past he would step down if he no longer had the public's trust.

"If a president is sacrificed in the middle of his term and if that serves to straighten out South Korean politics, I think that is a bigger stride forward for the development of South Korean politics than a case in which the president simply completes his five-year term," Roh said.

The former human rights lawyer has been criticized for his blunt management style and inconsistency in policy issues since he was elected to head this country of 48 million people.

In a speech prepared to the national assembly, the 57-year-old Roh said Monday he favored holding a referendum around December 15 as he seeks a renewed mandate for his presidency.

The president's minority party has had trouble pushing through policy during his eight-month term, and Roh said if he wins, he would have time to reassemble his cabinet and make a fresh start.

But if the vote fails, he would recommend a presidential election be held in April concurrent with the National Assembly election, giving the parties enough time to put forth a new presidential nominee.

Recent public opinion polls say 7 of 10 South Koreans don't approve of the job he's doing, but many people on the street have expressed concern at the leadership turmoil, saying it might be better if he stays.

"I am afraid that the president will really quit his job," said one South Korean. "I hope he carries on until the end of his term."

Roh's presidency is due to run until 2008.

The cabinet, led by Prime Minister Koh Gun, says it will carry on current policies to minimize negative impacts.

But analysts are not yet sure how the political upheaval will influence pressing issues like a downturn in one of Asia's fastest growing economies and the North Korean nuclear standoff.

-- CNN Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-ae contributed to this report.

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