[EDITORIALS]Constitutional reform: Not now

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[EDITORIALS]Constitutional reform: Not now

Grand National Party floor leader Kim Deog-ryong yesterday raised the issue of reforming the Constitution. Addressing the National Assembly, he said, “Apart from pursuing the interests of each political party, we should develop the discussion of constitutional reform.” The remark drew attention, because it is the first time an opposition leader has mentioned the possibility of constitutional reform. We, however, believe it was inappropriate to mention this issue when there is no public consensus on it.
First of all, this is not the time to discuss it. The economy is this year’s foremost concern. President Roh Moo-hyun and both major party leaders have said they would bet all on the economy, and vowed not to engage in political dogfights. Hasn’t Mr. Kim said that the controversial reform bills ―on the National Security Law, private education and an inquiry into Korea’s modern history ―should be postponed for the economy’s sake? It is absurd for him to raise this issue, which is even more controversial than the reform bills. It is obvious that economic issues will be laid aside if politics becomes overheated over constitutional reform.
We are not saying that it should be fundamentally barred from discussion. Because of criticism that the current system gives too much power to the president, such alternatives as a parliamentary cabinet system and the sharing of power with a vice president or prime minister have been suggested. Some have proposed a four-year presidential term, with the possibility of reelection. Others have argued for synchronizing the terms of the president and lawmakers, so that there would be fewer elections. Mr. Roh and Uri Party lawmakers also favor constitutional reform.
Still, if this discussion starts now, political circles will be full of opinions on reform, not only of the presidency, but of other areas. Politicians aiming for the next presidential election will start maneuvering. It has been only two years since Mr. Roh was elected, and it is not desirable to talk about the next president now. We are concerned that the remainder of Mr. Roh’s term could be taken up with political struggles.
We do not have time to discuss constitutional reform this year. The economy is the priority of the moment. It has shown minor signs of improvement, but constitutional reform should only be discussed once we are sure it is in good shape. And any such discussion should minimize squabbling, and should be finished as soon as possible.
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