Time to reviseThe Korean Constitution celebrates its 60th anniversary today. The first written constitution stipulating citizen freedom and three main branches of government administrative, legislative and judicial was the United States constitution adopted in 1787.
The Republic of Korea acquired a modern constitution in 1948. It has been the foundation and guiding spirit of national development ever since, despite a few stumbling blocks due to illegal attempts to extend terms of office.
The current Constitution, with direct presidential elections, was the culmination of the June 1987 pro-democracy movement. It has contributed to peaceful power transfers and economic growth since then.
However, times have changed. Korea should proceed to become an advanced country via industrialization and democratization. Korean society has been transformed, but the Constitution remains the same. The present five-year presidential term is the product of a vague compromise between a military junta and democratic-minded people.
The five-year single-term presidents tended to exercise power with irrational short-term targets because they didn’t have to worry about getting re-elected. The ambiguous relationship between the president and the prime minister is also problematic. The discrepancies between terms of office in the presidential, general and local governments have created unnecessary confusion.
The Board of Audit and Inspection is under presidential supervision. The president can intervene in matters related to the composition of the Constitutional Court.
These issues remind us of the need to revise the current Constitution.
With the opening of the 18th National Assembly, the environment for revising the Constitution is ripe. One hundred and fifty lawmakers have reportedly joined a group to study revising the Constitution. The opposition Democratic party is more aggressive about doing so.
The ruling Grand Nationals are positive as well, though they less keen to rush the issue.
The time frame and the method of revising the Constitution can be flexible since a consensus exists already. We have indicated that the most important agenda of the 18th National Assembly is constitutional revision and that it should be accomplished before the local elections of June 2010.
We will have a new Constitution through sincere discussion between the National Assembly and the society as a whole.