Good-bye amendmentPresident Roh Moo-hyun has retracted his proposal for a constitutional amendment, putting an end to a controversy that began with his New Year’s address. Surely it is not in the best interests of a national leader to arouse controversy on an issue that is expected to hit a dead end. A majority of people don’t agree with the timing of the amendment, nor is it likely to pass the National Assembly considering the way seats there are distributed. It is good that Roh has controlled his sometimes disastrous stubbornness.
The mature statesmanship of each party deserves special note regarding this issue. They were wise to provide the president an honorable way to retract something he pushed for in a public address to the nation. Distrust of politics will gradually subside if this statesmanship extends to other areas as well. Actually, it does not make sense for the parties of the 17th Assembly to “vow” to revise the Constitution in the 18th Assembly. Moreover, 63 percent of the members of the 17th Assembly are political first-timers. It is nonsense that such people make promises for the next assembly, when it is not clear they themselves will survive.
Another issue is the diversity of opinions among the amendment’s proponents. The structure of power should not be determined without detailed discussions on the contents of the amendment, making sure it reflects the diversity of views. The promise to revise the Constitution in the following assembly is in truth a decision to minimize spending further political capital on the issue. The issue will receive its due attention when it is seriously discussed again.
It is not proper to tie the constitutional amendment with the upcoming presidential election. The public opinion to postpone the discussion of the constitutional amendment is to prevent making political use of it. If somebody still insists to use the amendment as a presidential campaign issue like the Blue House spokesman Yoon Seung-yong, who said “unless candidates promise to revise the Constitution, they will have difficulties in the election,” his political intentions will not be able to escape suspicion.
The president’s duty is now clear. Defining how many terms a president or a lawmaker can serve in office is not a bread-and-butter issue. The Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and national pension system, on the other hand, have a direct impact on people. Roh will be remembered as a good president if he tends to those issues during the rest of his term.