South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun repeated yesterday a pledge to quit over a major political fundraising scandal that has ensnared several close aides as well as his opponents.
Roh, who vowed when the scandal broke in October to hold a referendum and step down if he lost, told political party leaders he would resign if the amount of illegal funds his camp had received exceeded 10 percent of the illicit cash received by the candidate he defeated in the election in December last year.
"If the amount of our illegal funds is more than one-tenth of Grand National Party's, I will resign from my presidential post and retire from politics," Roh told GNP chief Choe Byung-yul and other officials in remarks confirmed by the president's office.
Roh did not explain how he arrived at that formula in the multi-million dollar funding scandal. He also said that the referendum he had proposed to hold this month was "not possible" and that he would seek another way to test his mandate.
Prosecutors probing illegal campaign funds in the presidential election, in which Roh defeated the GNP's Lee Hoi-chang, say Lee's party took as much as 50 billion won (US$42 million) in illicit donations from huge business conglomerates.
By contrast, Roh's aides have been accused of taking much smaller amounts. One former presidential adviser was arrested in October for taking 1.1 billion won and prosecutors have linked two others with smaller payments.
The funding scandal has tripped up Roh not even one year into his five-year term and intensified the parties' rivalry ahead of a parliamentary election scheduled in April.