[VIEWPOINT]Time to allow a president two termsSince ancient Egypt battled the floods from the swollen waters of the Nile, the fundamental way to control floods has been to build hydraulic dams.
Clause 2 of Article 66 of the Korean constitution says that the president shall have the responsibility and duty to safeguard “territorial integrity” together with the independence and continuity of the state and the constitution.
Although the big flood that attacked the country as part of a three- to four-year cycle left ugly scars on the national territory a week ago, we hardly hear anyone talk about the fundamental solution: the construction of dams. There is only talk about taking tinkering measures to repair damages.
The problem is not limited to flood control. Almost all learned men know the fallacy that a five-year single-term presidency is not caused by human error, but by Article 70 of the constitution.
Still, there is no one who initiates a debate on the need to promote a “one-point constitutional revision,” that is, revising only one article, Article 70, of the constitution. Instead, they complain that Korean people must endure another one and a half years under President Roh Moo-hyun, and there’s the illusion that a new world will open if the conservative right-wing faction of the Grand National Party comes to power. But with such complaints and illusions, we cannot make up for the national loss caused by a failed president.
The right way to get rid of the wickedness and incompetence of the five-year single-term presidency is to revise Article 70 of the constitution.
The five-year single-term presidency allows the president to behave like a monarch who is highly regarded while he is on the throne; to evade being judged on the work he has done during his five-year term in office; and to be indifferent to the duty to safeguard the continuity of the state.
The task of changing this dull and incompetent presidency that became the prisoner of the greatness of its own ideas is a national project that is more important than the construction of a dam to prevent a flood. And it is more important than the coming to power of Park Geun-hye, Lee Myong-bak, Koh Kun or a new opposition leader.
Two former presidents were arrested and the sons of another two presidents had to go to prison. And the incumbent president, who has lost his dignity as the head of the state, has been degraded to leader of the “Blue House political club.” This is the reality, unfortunately, that will be confronted by any newly elected president, whoever he may be, after his five-year term. Who should acknowledge the reality most keenly that the problem does not lie in the person but in the system? It is Grand National Party Chairman Kang Jae-sup.
Mr. Kang should not have agreed with Lee Hoi-chang, former chairman of the Grand National Party, who lacked in political imagination, by saying the debate on the constitutional revision should be “nipped in the bud,” when Mr. Lee expressed strong opposition to the revision.
Mr. Kang is not a leader of a small political faction but a responsible politician of this country. The value of his leadership lies in the dual responsibility that he should lead the Grand National Party to grasp power in the next presidential election and revise the constitution to adopt a four-year two-term presidency.
Why should it be Mr. Kang? First, the constitutional revision is not something that can be promoted by the presidential office under President Roh or the Uri Party. If the Blue House or Uri Party tries to promote constitutional revision, they will only make it more difficult.
The government and the governing party are not only incompetent, but have fallen into the way of thinking that “we can regain power only if we magically stage a moving political drama.” People will think that their logic of revision is politically motivated. It will be seen as a conspiracy to shake the political scene.
That is the reason the Grand National Party must lead a “one-point constitutional revision,” a move to revise only one article of the constitution. However, the move should not be spearheaded by the potential presidential contenders of the party in the next presidential election. If they support the adoption of a four-year two-term presidency, they will confront an attack that they “intend to stay in power for eight years.”
Ultimately, the one who is not an interested party in the next presidential election and can lead the revision move without being suspected of political motivation is no one else than Mr. Kang. Perhaps he may feel reluctant to adopt a four-year two-term presidency, because he can be hurt politically by such a new system. If the president elected in next year’s presidential election stays in office for eight years, Mr. Kang, who aims to be the next president after that, has to wait three more years to be a candidate.
For all that, I sincerely hope that Mr. Kang will initiate the move of revising the article in question in the same manner that former President Park Chung Hee decided to establish Posco and construct a Seoul-Busan highway in spite of opposition from all sides. It is time for us to remove the single-term presidency and build up the new infrastructure of a two-term presidency.
Only then will it be possible to have a new president who can overcome the reality of becoming a failed president after five years in office and prolonging the period of no progress that has lasted for the past 10 years.
* The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chun Young-gi