President Roh Moo-hyun
By Jung Sung-ki
President Roh Moo-hyun renewed his challenge to the Constitution Sunday, describing the election-related laws and the single, five-year presidential term as ``underdeveloped'' in need of change.
Roh stepped up criticism on the main opposition Grand National Party and its presidential contenders whom he called inheritors of previous authoritarian governments in collusion with ``ultra-conservative'' media firms.
He also denounced deserters' groups from the pro-government Uri Party as ``opportunistic,'' only seeking to win the presidential election over the GNP on the basis of regionalism.
``We should change the underdeveloped political system to an advanced one,'' Roh said in his speech at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the 1987 pro-democracy rally. ``The single-term presidential system, the election law demanding the President's political neutrality and a system calling for the separation of the government and the ruling party should be changed.''
He called the ``June 10 struggle,'' which pushed then authoritarian regime led by Chun Doo-hwan to revive the direct presidential election, ``a half victory,'' stressing the nation's political systems need to be upgraded further.
In vain, Roh had sought to revise the presidential term to a U.S. style of a four-year, two-term presidency early this year, but dropped the proposal due to cool reactions from opposition parties.
He also gave up his membership of the Uri Party amid mounting calls for political neutrality ahead of the presidential election on Dec.19.
The liberal head of state already rejected accepting the election watchdog's ruling last week that he violated the law through his public criticism of the conservative GNP and the party's presidential hopefuls _ Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye.
Roh scorned Lee's campaign pledges as ``empty,''while calling Park the ``daughter of a dictator,'' citing the legacy of her late father Park Chung-hee who ruled the country from 1961 to 1979.
On Friday, Roh even argued that election laws are unconstitutional, referring to an ``ambiguity'' of laws pertaining to the elections and public servants.
The election law requires government officials to maintain political impartiality, while the public servants law does not restrict the President's political activities because of his status as an elected official.
``Those who had vested rights in the past have continued to frustrate (the government's) reform measures and prevent the country from going forward,'' Roh said.
Roh renewed his attacks on the media, which he argues as the last subject of ``reform'' during his remaining tenure.
``In the past, conservative media outlets acted as the cat's paw of dictatorship by branding democratic forces as violent protesters and blinding the people as well,'' he said. ``Now they have emerged as political forces that shake up democratic forces and take the lead in protecting the interests of conservatives.''
Roh's new media policy of closing most of the pressrooms at government offices has angered media firms and lawmakers from political parties.
During Friday's lecture in Wonkwang University in North Jeolla Province, Roh vowed to ``hammer spikes'' on pressrooms before leaving the presidential office.
Roh and representatives from the media circles are scheduled to hold a televised debate on the policy this week.