Division on revisionWe have advocated for the revision of the Constitution since the inauguration of the current administration. The 1987 Constitution has contributed to accelerating democratization over the last two decades, but failed to accommodate the rapid pace of change.
During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the parties pledged to revise the Constitution during the first half of their four-year term. House Speaker Kim Hyung-o led an advisory committee and presented an outline for a revision.
President Lee Myung-bak advocates for rewriting the Constitution to create a new system of power as well as to realign electoral and administrative districts. Most legislators agree on the necessity of updating the Constitution and some 186 ruling and opposition party members have organized a research group to work on the areas for amendment. Academic and civilian bodies also support the move. Yet actions to revise the Constitution have been slow or absent.
The responsibility for moving this process forward lies with the leadership in the ruling and opposition parties. The National Assembly passed a landmark amendment to pave the way for a direct presidential election propelled by the democracy movement in June 1987. But today’s legislators lack such commitment.
It is up to our political leaders to drum up support for constitutional reform. Instead they have only created confusion. The ruling party’s floor leader Kim Moo-sung and Minister without Profile Lee Jae-oh have been campaigning for revision. But Minister Lee went overboard by proposing a power-sharing arrangement between the president and prime minister. His comment fueled a dispute and the aides of former ruling party presidential candidate Park Geun-hye argued for a two-term, four-year presidential system. Floor-leader Kim also came under fire for bundling the revision matter with the government’s key four policy pursuits.
The main opposition Democratic Party is in bigger disarray. Many members have agreed on the need for revision yet new leader Sohn Hak-kyu, a potential presidential candidate, opposes further talk of reform and accuses the ruling party of misleading the public. Top party members have raised doubts about the ruling party’s motive for bringing up the issue at this stage.
It is strange to see this issue turn into a political fight when most legislators have already agreed on the idea of the revision. We can only blame poor leadership from the political parties. The president and leaders from the ruling and opposition parties should sit down and coordinate their opinions first. But if they cannot agree, they can hardly expect to persuade the public. If agreement is ultimately impossible, it would be best to give the task to the next administration.