Amend the Constitution

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Amend the Constitution

The term of 299 members of the 18th National Assembly starts on May 30. With this year being the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea, people have high expectations for the 18th National Assembly. We request that lawmakers discuss a revision of the Constitution seriously with an open-minded attitude.

The current Constitution was last revised for the ninth time in 1987, conveying citizen enthusiasm for democracy. The 1987 Constitution has conducted its duties faithfully in the era of democratization. However, even when a child is clad in fine clothes, he needs new clothes when he grows up.

The main characteristic of the Constitution was the U.S.-style presidential system in which the president takes responsibilities. But in the Korean presidential system, the president doesn’t take responsibilities or doesn’t need to present a vision for the future because he has a single, five-year term. When the president has only one term, the president is evaluated only while he is running for office. Once he is elected there is practically no way to evaluate him.

Park Myung-rim, a professor of political science at Yonsei University, points out that in a single-term system, the incumbent president and the presidential prospect for the next election are bound to have conflict. The conflict between Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye is exactly that case.

Besides, lawmakers and members of local government who have four-year terms, while the president’s term is five years. As their terms don’t match, enormous energy has been wasted. The terms of all three posts should be adjusted to four years and three elections should be held at the same time. Or, the elections can be held once every two years as a means of midterm evaluations.

When discussing restructuring of the power system, there are several models to refer to. In the traditional presidential system of the United States, the president has a four-year term and can be re-elected once. In the parliamentary cabinet system, the prime minister can take a central role as in Germany or Japan. France has a semi-presidential system.

Other discussions on the revision will include enhancement of local municipalities or ethical issues, such as the definition of the right to life.

The local elections will be held in 2010 and the presidential election and the legislative election in 2012. Thus, it will be an ideal time to start amending the Constitution this year and complete it in the summer of 2009.

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