Admitting that he has lost confidence in his ability to rule after shaken by a string of financial scandals involving close aides, the president told parliament he would quit if the vote went against him.
"I reached a situation which I cannot conduct the presidency," he said. " I have no confidence in doing my job under this situation."
Roh, who was elected for a single five-year term in December last year, said he would hold a fresh presidential election together with April's parliamentary election if he lost the referendum.
"I reached a situation which I cannot conduct the presidency"
South Korean President
Roh's current term normally would have lasted till 2008.
"I believe the referendum is proper. This is not without legal disputes, but if we achieve a political agreement, a referendum should be possible under current law," Roh said.
The latest row to embroil Roh involves Choi Do-sul, a confidante of 20 years who was named by prosecutors as having received funds from the scandal-tainted SK Group, shortly after last year's presidential elections.