Amending the Constitution

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Amending the Constitution

Among 224 National Assembly members who responded to a JoongAng Ilbo survey, 182 lawmakers, or 81 percent, said yes to a need to amend the Constitution at the 18th National Assembly. The number 182 approaches two-thirds, or 200 members, of the total number of legislators. Constitutional revision requires approval by that number.

The number of legislators who have joined the “Future Korean Constitution Research Society” stands at 112 as of June 26. Kim Hyung-o, the National Assembly speaker- designate, said that if elected, he will form a special committee for constitutional change. Legislator Chung Mong-joon hinted that there is a need for the ruling and opposition parties to create a draft constitutional amendment no later than next summer.

Debates surrounding these issues are rapidly growing in the academic community. Some argue that it is inappropriate to distract the nation at the start of a new administration, as a new government should concentrate on reform and reviving the economy. This argument comes mainly from legislators who oppose constitutional change.

However, when we look at the current chaotic state of national affairs, it looks more persuasive to argue for the amendment of the Constitution in order to fix fundamental problems in running the country.

A single, five-year term has made the presidents of Korea self-righteous and at times stubborn. The vagueness of the roles and functions of the prime minister and the president, or the Blue House and the cabinet, had prevented the government from functioning properly. We should start to ponder which system fits better ?? presidential or parliamentary?

Settling the beef situation and adhering to the country’s economic environment for public welfare has been pivotal. However, while achieving this feat, the government should also kick-start discussions on constitutional amendments in order to straighten out Korea’s basic structure. As soon as the National Assembly opens, the governing and opposition parties should form a special committee for constitutional amendment. The government should actively cooperate with the National Assembly, which will then provide a larger forum for progressive discussion through academia and the media.

All legal procedures for constitutional reform should be completed no later than the 2010 local elections. If it is caught up in the frenzy of the 2010 and 2012 presidential elections, constitutional reform will have missed its chance.

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