[EDITORIALS]Constitutional Cart Before Horse

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[EDITORIALS]Constitutional Cart Before Horse

The New Strategy Institute of Korea, a think tank of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party consisting of 79 legislators headed by Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Won-gil, held a seminar Friday on a new constitution for a reunified Korea. Wide-ranging discussion on issues related to reunification is useful, providing a forum to correct and complement viewpoints and to reach agreeable conclusions. However, one cannot help but note serious problems in the selection of the theme and the timing of the discussion.

The symposium was held under the theme of materializing the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration and devising a new constitution for a reunified Korea. We would like to point out that the logical order is being reversed. The government is driving toward drawing up a new constitution based on a declaration stipulating a loose federation, which was decided upon unilaterally by the government without the people's consent.

The second clause of the joint declaration states, "The North and the South, recognizing that a proposal for loose federation advanced by the North side and a proposal for confederation put forth by the South side for the reunification of the country have elements in common, agreed to work for the reunification in this direction in the future." The clause was questioned for leaving room for all kinds of interpretation. Yet, the government has not provided any explanation.

First, the clause is completely different from reunification methods proposed by previous governments. The generally agreed method supposed a confederation of states, then federation, and finally reunification. President Kim Dae-jung held similar views when he was in the opposition. Suddenly to claim now that the rival proposals of the North and South have common elements and that unification should be pursued in that direction is the flaw in the joint declaration.

If we are to discuss reunification methods, we should first discuss this problem. But Mr. Kim said in his keynote speech that "efforts to systematize and materialize the June 15 Declaration should precede." Professor Park Sang-chul said in a paper that discussion of a new constitution for a reunified Korea was necessary to systematize the results of the summit meeting. It could be said that it was a statement claiming discussion on a new constitution in accordance with the purpose of the joint declaration that admits a federation for a reunified Korea.

If so, what is the loose federation mentioned by the North? The North has said that it refers to having two regional governments and a unified national institution on top: in other words, a federation of two governments for one state. A confederation has as its premise two separate states. Whether a federation is higher or lower, loose or tight, or without much difference, when did the people ever consent to it? Does it make any sense now to formulate a new constitution for a reunified Korea based on a wrong-headed declaration that was not adopted through public consent?

The timing is also questionable. If they were going to discuss the second clause of the declaration, they should have explained why there are common elements to a federation and a confederation and sought public opinion when the declaration was adopted. Who would not suspect hidden political motives when the government remained silent after the declaration and is bringing up the topic only now in the second half of the presidential term? If we are anyway to discuss the declaration, let's do it from the beginning. And if the people cannot agree on a reunification scheme, it would be reasonable for a democratic state to dismiss the second clause.
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