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Council suggests broad changes in governing Korea

Model would give powers to prime minister while restricting president   PLAY AUDIO

Aug 28,2009
Korea should adopt a hybrid “presidential-parliamentary” government in which the prime minister commands domestic, foreign and defense affairs, according to a draft constitutional amendment by a National Assembly speaker advisory council.

The new governance system, also known as the semi-presidential system, was proposed by the majority of the 15-member advisory group, according to a copy of the draft obtained by the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

The panel includes some of the country’s top constitutional and political experts. Members will hold a meeting today to finalize the report.

According to the report, the council considered two types of governance systems to replace the current single-term, five-year presidency.

The first, backed by the majority, was the presidential-parliamentary system, while the second was a U.S.-style two-term, four-year presidency.

In the presidential-parliamentary system, a president and a prime minister would both actively participate in the day-to-day administration of the state.

The prime minister, to be elected by the majority of the legislature, would be in charge of state affairs, including the right to form a cabinet and command the military. The position would also control economic, security and defense affairs.

The country would still elect a president, who would serve a single five-year term. The president would have the right to declare martial law and to dismiss the National Assembly when the prime minister or the cabinet fails to survive a no-confidence vote in the legislature.

In addition to the prime minister, the legislature would select the supreme court chief justice and the head of the constitutional court. The president would exercise the largely ceremonial right to appoint them.

Other presidential rights - such as ratifying treaties, issuing amnesty, declaring a war and dispatching troops overseas - would require legislative approval, reducing the presidency to figurehead status.

“Unlike the system of France, in which the president is actively involved in foreign affairs, national defense and other issues, the proposed system is closer to those of Austria and Finland in which the prime minister leads state affairs,” said a senior official of the advisory council.

The advisory council also recommended that the constitutional amendment include a plan to introduce a bicameral legislature.

National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyung-o will ask ruling and opposition parties to form a special committee on constitutional amendments as soon as the council gives him the report.

The advisory council was launched on July 29 of last year to propose constitutional amendments. The group, including former Prime Minister Lee Hong-koo, has since studied how to revise the country’s governance.

Through a constitutional amendment in 1987, Korea adopted a system of directly electing a single five-year-term president. Calls that the system be changed have since mounted.

National Assembly Speaker Kim officially called for a constitutional amendment last month. Kim has said the change will focus on realizing a division of power through checks and balances and overcoming the shortcomings of the single five-year-term presidency. At the time, Kim said lawmakers should create a bill to amend the constitution and vote on it within months. He said a referendum to finalize the change should be completed by June of next year when the nation elects new heads of local autonomous governments and council members.


By Jung Hyo-sik, Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]




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