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S. Korean President Appeals for Public Support


South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is appealing for the public's support as he tries to govern amid scandals involving his aides and other politicians.

At an unscheduled and nationally televised news conference on Friday, President Roh says he is looking forward to a public debate about his governance, believing it will help him regain the nation's confidence.

In his unusual appeal, the president says he cannot evade responsibility for the scandal involving his former secretary, who received funds before last year's presidential election from a powerful business conglomerate. But he says he will not say more about Mr. Choi Do-sul until an investigation is complete.

Mr. Roh, who cannot be re-elected under the South Korea's constitution, acknowledges his situation is difficult because the media, the National Assembly and the public do not view him favorably.

Korea University professor Lee Nae-young says this combination of disapproving factions means the president has no choice except to appeal for public support.

"Given the declining support rate and many difficulties facing his government and recent corruption scandal, he wants to overcome all these problems by asking for a vote of confidence from the people," he said.

Mr. Roh became president in February. But his reformist image has been tainted by a growing number of scandals involving former associates. South Koreans had hoped the Roh administration would stop scandals that have resulted in jail terms for two former presidents and several sons of national leaders.

Mr. Roh recently abandoned his own party, which has fractured between his supporters and those of his predecessor, Kim Dae-jung.

Mr. Roh was elected last year by a small margin with the support of young and left-leaning South Koreans. That constituency's support will be tested again if Mr. Roh agrees to contribute South Korean combat troops to the U.S.-led force in Iraq. The leftists strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq and have since been critical of the United States and President Bush.

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