Transparence and order
The faction in the ruling party loyal to President Park Geun-hye is again considering replacing the five-year, single-term presidential system with semi-presidentialism, where the president and prime minister share the responsibility of state governance. Rep. Hong Moon-jong of the Saenrui Party said that having a president in charge of foreign affairs and a prime minister to control domestic affairs would lead to more consistent public policies that better reflect the opinions of the people.
Hong approved of the idea of UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, who has emerged as the favorite candidate for next president, serving as the head of the state and sharing the responsibility with a prime minister from the Park faction.
The same faction had actually strongly criticized Saenuri Party head Kim Moo-sung when he spoke of constitutional reform to change the governing system during an overseas trip last year. Even the president openly disapproved of Kim’s comment. But the talk suddenly reemerged from the mainstream faction five months ahead of the parliamentary election.
Members tried to downplay the controversy, saying the comment was a personal opinion of Hong. But the minority faction of the Saenuri Party and main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy are accusing the pro-Park faction of trying to prolong its rule through constitutional reform. The opposition also suspects the ruling faction of trying to silence public complaints about the government’s decision to restore state control over history textbooks and its failure to improve the economy by reigniting debate about constitutional reform.
Critics accuse Park of trying to wield influence by fielding Ban as the president and seating one of her loyalists as the prime minister after strengthening the role. The series of politically sensitive remarks from the leadership, including the president’s personal plea to voters to select truthful candidates in upcoming election, also add to the suspicion that the ruling faction is setting the grounds for a semi-presidential system. The Blue House remained ambiguous by declining to comment.
Korea’s governmental system, established in 1987, needs a new makeover to meet with the diversifying times. But the work of constitutional reform to refurbish the governmental system must be pursued amid broad support and in orderly fashion. Pushing the discussion from political motivation and suspicion cannot produce productive outcomes. Past attempts all failed because the motives had not been genuine.
If the ruling party seriously has the long-term national interest at heart, it should lead the talks through official channels for level-headed, rational discussion. As the main opposition suggests, the agenda could be discussed more thoroughly as a campaign agenda during the next parliamentary election.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 14, Page 30