[FOUNTAIN]Time to mull revising the constitutionIt is only normal that a country’s administrative system changes over time. The heart of a country’s administrative system is its constitution, and since it is the highest law, it must be very stable. But if the constitution does not match the spirit of the time, citizens will be annoyed by the disparity between the reality and the law. Obsolete regulations often restrict citizens’ imagination.
Today, Koreans enjoy a constitution that fits well. The current version has been in effect since 1987. The ninth revision of the constitution was made at that time when former President Chun Doo Hwan acceded to the public’s demands after the democratization movement of June 10. The previous constitutions lasted an average of four years and four months, and were a tool used by presidents to strengthen and extend their rule.
But it is about time for the people to consider revising the constitution. Today’s constitution is a version that views South Korea in the context of autocracy versus anti-autocracy and democracy versus anti-democracy only. The democratization of South Korea was everything, and the constitution was drafted at a time when electing a president directly was considered a virtue.
Also, the constitution was a product of compromise by four political heavyweights ― Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil. No matter who became president, they wanted to make sure everyone got a chance the next time by prohibiting reelection. They thought a four-year term would be too short and seven years, the length of the previous presidential term, would be too long, and agreed to make it five years.
That was how the single five-year presidential term was born. But the presidential election is not in sync with the National Assembly and local government elections, and it is exhausting national resources. From 2006, Korea would face nationwide elections every year for three years in a row.
The 17th National Assembly ended the so-called “Three Kim” politics. Korean society has moved on to the post-democratization period. Korean politics has been expanded from South Korea to the Korean Peninsula and its periphery. The time and space have changed, so it might be appropriate to discuss revising the constitution with a progressive imagination.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.