Constitutional Amendment for Whom?The movement for a constitutional amendment has started again. Powerful politicians insist on trying to revise the constitution and observers predict that constitutional amendment will become the most heated political subject of the coming year.
There are basically three arguments related to the power structure, a core part of the movement for constitutional amendment. First, some people want a cabinet system, which is mostly favored by the United Liberal Democrats. A push for a cabinet system was pledged jointly by the current president and the honorary ULD chairman in 1997.
Another group insists on a system that allows presidential re-election. These proponents want to revise the constitution to allow a president to run for a second term, instead of the single term allowed now.
Finally, there are those who want to elect a vice president and president together, following the U.S. model.
The systems calling for a second term for the president and for the election of a vice president both are being emphasized by a number of future presidency candidates in the Millennium Democratic Party and the Grand National Party.
All three arguments have their reasons. Both the groups supporting the cabinet system and a vice presidential system argue that the two systems prohibit power from concentrating only in the presidency and will ease regional confrontation. Those supporting the system allowing presidential re-election insist that it would prohibit power from leaking in the early stages of a new presidency and enhance the development of such national tasks as reunification.
In addition, some argue that the five-year single term is the result of an agreement made by Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung. Since all three have served as president, the agreement has served its purpose. The problem is to learn the motives for wanting to revise the constitution. All arguments include the desire to enhance the interests of each group insisting on different power structures. Those with the possibility of producing a president insist on a system allowing his re-election, while those whose candidacy is hopeless want to discontinue the presidency and start a cabinet system. Those who cannot win the presidency in the near future insist on a government system run by a president and vice president.
To this end, no arguments for constitutional amendment are convincing, despite the excuse that they are in the long-term interest of our country. There is no way for these politicians to avoid the criticism that their desire for constitutional amendment is simply a way to change the rules of the game to benefit their own interests.
The constitution of South Korea has been revised repeatedly because of politicians'' desire to maintain power. The world has laughed at us because the constitution has been revised nine times in 53 years. Leaders who amended it ended up in misery.
Even if the constitution is amended, there will still be problems. Although the system allowing the re-election of the president would seek to prevent the lame duck syndrome, it is possible that the new system would bring even bigger problems. If the incumbent president runs for re-election, it is unavoidable that all public servants will be forced to participate in his election campaign. Moreover, what will we do about the lame duck syndrome at the end of the second presidential term?
The system of electing a vice president also has problems. The vice president would only be a decoration while a president would have full power over public servants, information and organization. And the appearance of a vice president with strong power may deepen conflicts, worsening unstable political conditions.
In any case, we do not have the time now to discuss amendment, especially if the arguments only focus on the interests of certain groups.