중앙데일리

[FOUNTAIN]Our constitution is a living one

July 18,2003
“The Constitution of the Republic of Korea” is a new book published by Park Youngyul Publishing House that explains the 130 articles of the Korean constitution. The design of the book, which is similar to an illustrated story book, lets the reader become absorbed in a meditation on the meaning of the document.
The book contains a number of photographs, including a Russian spy satellite picture of Pyeongyang with the Daedong River flowing through the middle of the city; the faces of people watching South Korea’s match with the United States at last year’s World Cup soccer tournament; vagrants sleeping in a public restroom to keep out of the winter cold; a genetic map of Koreans; the dismantled former Japanese colonial government building; and a scene of Marado Island, the southernmost part of Korean territory. These images, which show the varied aspects of Korea, give the feeling that the constitution is a living one.
A constitution is an evolving creation. The document, established in 1948, declares in Article 1, Clause 2 that “the sovereignty of the Republic of Korea shall reside in the people, and all state authority shall emanate from the people.”
The constitution has been changed nine times, twice during the Syngman Rhee regime, five times in the Park Chung Hee era and twice by the Chun Doo Hwan government. Until the 1987 constitution currently in force was settled, the average life of each constitution was only four years and 10 months. Most of the changes were made to strengthen the power of the presidents or to lengthen their regime. Given the frequent change, some said that “our constitution is a tattered one.”
What has changed now is not the constitution, but the times. It seems the time has come to embrace our constitution as the result of our history. Former President Rhee founded the republic’s constitutional systems, former President Park secured economic recovery and former President Chun kept his promise of a single term, although that was because he could not resist the people's power. He accepted the 1987 constitution, which has lasted for three administrations. Our final constitution has grown healthily for 16 years. Now we solidly believe the meaning of Article 1, Clause 2. Commemorating the 55th Constitution Day yesterday, such terms as appreciation of the constitution, the power of the people, the continuity of history and patriotism come to mind.


by Chun Young-gi

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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