Redesigning the ConstitutionIn a lunch meeting with floor leaders of five political parties, President Moon Jae-in pledged to proceed with the rewriting of the 1987 Constitution in June next year as he promised during the presidential campaign. Korean society is demanding changes to its constitutional system to catch up with the changes of the last three decades. Structural problems like income inequalities, aging population, youth unemployment, and lack of social mobility are worsening and threatening the sustainability of Korean society. A constitution established 30 years ago when the country was at a fledgling stage of democracy has limitations. We have learned in a painful way that the current presidential system of over-concentration of power can lead to appalling abuses.
A consensus has been building on the need for constitutional reform and all five major candidates in the last presidential election supported it. But past presidents all punted once they were elected. Moon reiterated his commitment after 10 days in office. Attending a memorial service for the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement, Moon pledged he would reflect the spirit of the democracy movement in the new constitution. He reaffirmed his plan when he met with floor leaders.
But it’s a complicated process. There are still big differences over what changes should be made. A reform committee under the National Assembly favors the Austrian system of having a chancellor as the government chief and the president as head of the state. Moon thinks the keystone of the reform should be changing the president’s single five-year term to two-term of four years each, as in the U.S. Parties also differ in the redesigning of the electoral map.
During the campaign, Moon said he would form a reform committee in the government and an umbrella body to solicit public opinions. The 1987 Constitution was the byproduct of the democracy movement and left out any input from the general public.
Constitutional reform is a reinvention of Korea. Political interests must be put aside for the sake of the future of the country and its people. There is only a year to draw up an outline. The political circles must place public opinion ahead of their interests and demonstrate bipartisanship to come up with the best possible constitutional framework.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 20, Page 26