[EDITORIALS]A constitutional dilemma

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[EDITORIALS]A constitutional dilemma

The consequences of Prime Minister nominee Chang Sang being voted down are serious because President Kim Dae-jung has not assigned a backup. Moreover, there is talk that keeping the position of prime minister vacant poses an administrative gap and is unconstitutional. Because it is rumored that the successor will also have the term "nominee" attached to his or her title, it's believed that this will result in a further debate over constitutionality.

According to governmental law, the deputy prime minister for finance and economy is to act as the prime minister in case the prime minister isn't able to perform his or her duties due to an accident. An accident refers to any ceased period due to a vacation, foreign travel and so forth. Thus, a case in which a prime minister nominee is rejected does not fall under the category of "accident," and is different from a "vacancy" caused by death or resignation, according to the Blue House.

However, scholars of constitutional law define "accident" as including "vacancy." The strict interpretation by the government has been criticized as being too confining.

Constitutional law dictates that "all national acts performed by the president shall be documented," and the prime minister shall countersign those laws, which poses the question of whether the acts to be performed by the president but not signed by the prime minister are valid. Those who interpret the prime minister's countersigning as a means to restrain presidential power insist that any approval or decision made without a countersignature is void. This leads to the suspicion that the Blue House insists on appointing another "nominee" to impose the burden of this vacancy on the opposition. President Kim must promptly handle this situation. The objective and spirit of the constitution and its provisions are to have the acting prime minister system under operation. And the president should defend the constitution by defining the prime minister's position.

This was probably the underlying spirit in designating an acting prime minister when Prime Minister Park Tae-joon resigned a couple of years ago. Accordingly, when a new prime minister is appointed, using the term "nominee" should be avoided. In the course of the hearing held for Chang Sang, the nominee-system has been found to be unconstitutional, and it will no longer be easy to deem it customary.

The only solution to end the debate of unconstitutionality is to have an "acting prime minister" system.
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