[VIEWPOINT]It’s too soon for a 2-term presidencyImagine what would have happened if President Kim Young-sam and President Kim Dae-jung had been in office for eight years. What if President Roh Moo-hyun stayed in power for another four years? Anyone who likes these presidents might welcome their extended time in office, but most citizens would just shake their heads. The financial crisis would not have occurred in 1997, but rather in the next year.
The Kim Young-sam administra-tion would have done everything it could to push the crisis to after the presidential election, and the Korean economy would have suffered far more serious after-effects than it did. If the president can be in power for four additional years, it is questionable whether the prosecutors and the media would be able to investigate the corruption and abuse of power by the son and cronies of the president.
A taxi driver once despaired, “Why does President Roh’s five-year term feel so long?” How about eight years instead of five?
At the beginning of the year, the JoongAng Ilbo asked readers who their favorite president in history was, and Park Chung Hee got first place, with 55.4 percent of votes. In second place was Kim Dae-jung, with 17.1 percent. No other president got more than 5 percent, as Chun Doo-hwan followed with 3.1 percent, and Syngman Rhee and Kim Young-sam got 2.2 percent and 1.6 percent. At this juncture, it is hard to understand for whom the Constitution should be revised to allow two four-year presidential terms.
There are voices that say a constitutional amendment is needed to make politicians more responsible and to reduce the waste of national resources by frequent elections because of the discrepancies of the terms among presidential, legislatorial and local elections.
President Roh has advocated similar theories. Let’s consider each point. During the 20 years since the last constitutional revision in 1987, there have only been eight years in which an election did not take place. However, the country would have been in worse shape if there were never National Assembly and local elections between the presidential elections. Even if the administration abuses power, the citizens wouldn’t have a way to keep them in check.
Making politicians more responsible is not convincing either. It means that the several presidents who have served a single five-year term did not administer the affairs of state responsibly because they were not running for re-election. How-ever, the failures of Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun are not due to the single term. They came down by themselves because of corruption, incompetence, arrogance and self-righteousness. If they were allowed a presidency of two four-year terms, they would have exploited the first term with pork-barrel spending and political agitation, and repeated those vices in their second term.
No one ever said that former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak or former Gyeonggi province Governor Sohn Hak-kyu have failed to fulfill their responsibilities as heads of local governments because they only served one term.
From the day of their inauguration, they declared they would only serve four years. And based on their achievements, they confidently join-ed the presidential race. It all de-pends on who does it and how they do it. The voters will have the chance to vote against an unsatisfactory incumbent president, champions of the two-term presidency argue. However, even in the United States, only two presidents, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, have failed to be re-elected since 1948. There are endless means for those in power to be re-elected. We are witnessing a president with a 10-percent approval rating turning the country upside down using only the “authority given by the Constitution.” Unfor-tunately, it is the reality in Korea in 2007. The president and the head of the judiciary can disgrace the dignity of the state, and those who never learned what it means to govern a country can sway the Blue House. At this juncture, the two-term presidency is a nightmarish scenario. When politicians are busy siding with presidential candidates, the time is not yet ripe for the two-term presidency.
Let’s be patient and wait until Korean society matures enough to deal with the two-term presidency. Then, we will see presidents who we want to stay longer for the country and are loved by the citizens after they step down. It doesn’t matter if the time comes in two or three decades. By that time, the citizens will be more than happy to revise the constitution for the two-term presidency.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo