Group formed to push constitutional change

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Group formed to push constitutional change

Lawmakers across party lines raised calls for amending the current Constitution during a launch ceremony on Tuesday for a group, comprised of more than 100 civic and academic organizations, which roughly translates as the People’s Coalition for a Constitutional Amendment.

At the launch ceremony, which was held at the National Assembly and arranged by four lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri and opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, the special-purpose group declared that 2015 would be the perfect time for the country to push ahead with amending the Constitution.

Such a change, it said, would more evenly distribute power, which is now too heavily concentrated around the president down to the National Assembly.

The gathering on Tuesday was largely seen as the beginning of political activities by five-term Saenuri lawmaker Lee Jae-oh - who has advocated for a constitutional amendment for more than 10 years - to once again draw public attention to the issue.

Such a move has been blatantly rejected by the Park Geun-hye administration.

Lee spoke on the shortcomings of the current Constitution, which has been blamed by amendment advocates for giving too much power to the president.

He added that revising the Constitution in a way that would give authority for national affairs to a prime minster elected by the parliament, while empowering the president to handle diplomacy, unification and national defense would fix a number of problems that have long-plagued Korean politics. “What we are saying is that the 1987 Constitution has expired now. Just like other developed countries, we need to have a system that separates the president from the parliament,” Lee said.

On the perils of having a president that holds too much power, Lee cited a luncheon Sunday hosted by President Park Geun-hye with leading members of the ruling Saenuri Party and its lawmakers, and lamented how ruling party lawmakers were unable to level tough questions at the president regarding a recent and widening scandal concerning national affairs.

“Even party leaders do nothing but just clap their hands before the president,” Lee said, adding that the current state of politics was worse than the feudal government system during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

It is expected that Lee will mostly spearhead the new group’s initiative to muster public support to revise the Constitution, which bars a president from seeking a second term after a single five-year administration.

However, it remains to be seen whether Lee and lawmakers across the aisle will be able to accomplish their goal given President Park’s clear objection to such talks, which she characterized earlier this year as a “black hole” that would suck up time needed to discuss all other important policy matters despite the fact that revising the 27-year-old Constitution was one of her campaign promises during the 2012 election.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr ]



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