South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said Thursday he will leave the ruling party if members ask him, amid recent moves by politicians seeking to distance themselves from his unpopular administration.
There have been several recent defections from the Uri Party ahead of this December's presidential vote and next year's parliamentary elections, with lawmakers moving to create a new party that won't be linked to Roh.
"If it's because of me that they say they want to leave the party, then I will leave," Roh said at his annual news conference.
Roh's leaving the party wouldn't directly affect his ability to govern.
The president's popularity has plummeted amid a perception that he has botched the handling of the economy, along with mishandling security policies and harming South Korea's international alliances.
But Roh noted Thursday the fickle nature of politics in South Korea, where he himself won a surprise victory over more well-established opponents due to a surge of last-minute support.
"A lot of people think because the Uri Party is hitting the bottom in the ratings they should leave, but I don't think they should leave the party because things can always turn around," he said.
According to recent opinion polls, candidates from the main opposition Grand National Party hold a wide lead in the race for president. The campaign officially begins the month before the Dec. 19 vote.
Meanwhile, Roh has proposed the country's constitution be revised to allow presidents to run for re-election and serve a maximum two four-year terms. Under current law, presidents serve a single five-year term.
Roh said Thursday that he had considered stepping down early to help give impetus to the reform plan, but that he rejected that idea and plans to remain in office until his term ends early next year.
"There is no chance that I will shorten my term as presidency," he said.