Constitutional Court a part of amendment plan

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Constitutional Court a part of amendment plan

President Lee Myung-bak’s desire to amend the Constitution goes beyond ending the one-term presidency, senior political sources told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday. He also wants a clarification of the conflicting roles of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court.

“Because there is confusion between the roles of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, a constitutional amendment is needed to resolve the issue,” Lee was quoted as saying by a senior political source. Lee had also spoken about this idea during a recent discussion with key Blue House officials, the source said.

A senior Blue House aide confirmed the account. “Lee believes that significant parts of the two courts’ roles overlap and the Constitutional Court has intruded on some functions of the Supreme Court,” he said. “Lee believes it is appropriate to resolve the structural problem of the judiciary, which is like an unnecessary roof on top of another roof, through constitutional amendment.”

During Sunday’s dinner with the top echelon of the Grand National Party, Lee said the Constitution should be revised to reflect current realities, including problems in the judiciary.

Blue House and ruling party officials said Lee was referring to the conflicting roles of the country’s two top courts.

The Constitutional Court was established in 1988 based on the current version of the Constitution, which was amended in 1987 to end the country’s decades of authoritarian rule.

“Lee recently learned from experts that some functions of the Supreme Court were taken away and given to the Constitutional Court in 1987,” another senior Blue House official said.

During a meeting with Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and other officials Tuesday, Lee raised the issue of the conflicting roles of the two courts and stressed the need to change the Constitution, sources said. After Kim, a former Supreme Court justice, concurred with Lee, the president continued to push for change, sources said.

The Constitutional Court is supposed to mainly rule on whether laws are constitutional or not. But it has increasingly conflicted with the Supreme Court in broader cases. In 1997, it ruled that the Supreme Court must void a ruling. And in recent years, it has made judgements on a range of political issues, such as the impeachment of former President Roh Moo-hyun, the fate of the Sejong City development plan and media reform laws.

A senior political source said Lee is now building up strategies to convince lawmakers to amend the Constitution. Since he first raised the subject in 2009, the president has based his argument on the need to end the one-term presidency. Analysts and Lee’s aides say the idea is that a single-term presidency has too much power in the first years of his term, and quickly becomes a lame duck in the final years as all parties look forward to the next election campaign. This fuels the aggressive politics Korea is known for, particularly in its legislature, and a change in the Constitution is proposed as a solution to calm that down. Through his aides, Lee also said a constitutional change is needed to align the president’s term with the tenures of lawmakers and local government heads.

By Namkoong Wook, Ser Myo-ja []

Related Korean Article [중앙일보]

“헌재·대법원 역할 혼선 때문에라도 개헌 필요하다”
이 대통령, 참모들에게 밝혀
“역할 많이 중첩 … 정리해야”

이명박(얼굴) 대통령이 최근 “헌법재판소(헌재)와 대법원의 역할에 혼선이 있는 만큼 그런 문제를 해소하기 위해서라도 개헌을 해야 할 필요가 있다”고 말했다고 여권 고위 관계자가 26일 전했다.

이와 관련, 청와대 고위 관계자는 “이 대통령은 헌재와 대법원의 역할이 상당부분 중첩돼 있 다고 보고 있다”며 “대통령은 개헌을 하면서 ‘옥상옥(屋上屋)’처럼 돼 있는 사법부의 구조적 문제도 함께 정리하는 게 바람직하다고 생각한다”고 밝혔다.

이 대통령은 23일 여당 지도부와 만찬을 한 자리에서 “헌법을 바꾼다면 ▶사법부 문제 ▶기후변화 ▶남북관계 ▶남녀평등 등 바뀐 시대상이 (새 헌법에) 담겨야 한다”고 말했다고 참석자들이 전했다. ‘사법부 문제’란 헌재와 대법원의 통합 또는 역할 조정이 필요하다는 뜻이라고 여권 관계자들은 설명했다. 청와대의 또 다른 고위 관계자는 “1987년 개헌 때 대법원이 수행할 수 있는 기능을 떼어내 헌재에 맡겼다는 전문가들의 의견을 이 대통령이 듣고 공감한 것으로 안다”고 말했다. …
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