Fri, Feb 23, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Roh Moo-hyun to quit South Korea's ruling Uri Party

AP , SEOUL

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said yesterday that he would leave the ruling party, paving the way for a political shake-up ahead of this year's presidential vote.

"I have been hesitant about giving up my party membership," Roh told Uri Party leaders at the presidential Blue House, his office said.

"However, as long as there are calls within the party for my giving up the membership, we need to resolve the source of discord within the party," he said.

It was not clear when he would officially leave the party.

The change to Roh's party membership will not affect his status as president. Still, it could have significant political meaning as the country prepares for presidential polls in December.

Roh's departure frees the Uri Party from its association with the deeply unpopular president, possibly helping bolster the party's chances at the polls. Many party officials blame their low popularity on Roh, and dozens quit the party earlier this month.

It could also help the ruling party in its efforts to seek a broader alliance with other liberal political forces opposed to the conservative main opposition Grand National Party.

Roh also took a swipe yesterday at the opposition, which has been harshly critical of his policies, calling their moves part of a "groundless political offensive" against him despite the fact he is not able to run for office again.

Roh's approval ratings have plummeted to single digits in some surveys amid a perception he has not managed the economy well, and concerns about inept security policies and harm to Seoul's international alliances.

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