Revisiting revision

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Revisiting revision

The Grand National Party’s caucus this week will mark a watershed moment in the dispute over constitutional revision. It will, after all, serve as the ruling party’s first official response to President Lee Myung-bak’s remarks on the need for revision last year.

Although some have stressed the importance of the ruling camp taking a united stand on the issue, the party has, in fact, done just the opposite, with the pro-Lee faction and supporters of Park Geun-hye at odds on the issue.

President Lee’s TV interview last Tuesday made it abundantly clear that he is seeking constitutional revision, and now he is looking to pressure the GNP to take up the issue. Presidential aide Lee Jae-oh insists that the president should handle issues relating to foreign affairs and national defense and that the prime minister should focus mainly on domestic matters. Some within the GNP, however, believe that position reflects an attempt by Lee’s supporters to diffuse Park’s political leverage if she takes power in the next presidential election.

The caucus should answer several important questions related to this issue, such as whether the general public even wants constitutional revision in the first place.

After visiting their constituencies during the Lunar New Year holidays, many lawmakers said that a majority of voters don’t seem to care too much about constitutional revision in the face of more pressing issues like the struggles of the working class, the spread of foot-and-mouth disease and national security.

Constitutional revision requires strong support from the people. Our constitution needs to be modified to ensure that presidential elections are synchronized with general elections, just like in the United States. It also must be tweaked to accommodate the changing times.

Now, however, simply might not be the right time. The government has put this issue on the backburner as the country dealt with massive candlelight protests against the resumption of U.S. beef imports in 2008, the world financial crisis in 2009 and conflict over the Sejong City project as well as North Korea’s sinking of the Cheonan warship and its shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. In the process, many voters have grown tired of social division. Yet the ruling camp is again sowing the seeds for more friction.

The party caucus should explain clearly why the administration is trying to push ahead with constitutional revision. If it fails to come up with a good answer, it must end the debate for now.
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