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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on March 14)

2018/03/14 07:06

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Constitutional revision

: Bill should be aimed at checking kinglike presidency

President Moon Jae-in is moving quickly to uphold his election pledge of holding a referendum on a constitutional revision on the same day as the June 13 local elections.

A special advisory council under the Presidential Commission on Policy Planning, which has been preparing the government's draft for the amendment, made a report to the President at Cheong Wa Dae, Tuesday. President Moon will review the draft and is expected to officially submit a revision bill in the coming weeks.

The commission's proposals reportedly include changing the current single, five-year presidential term to a four-year term that allows presidents to seek one consecutive re-election. Also included in the draft are proposals for promoting local autonomy and judicial democracy and adding some of the pro-democracy movements since the 1970s to the preamble of the Constitution. The addition will include the 1979 protests in Busan and Masan against the Park Chung-hee regime, the May 18 Democratic Uprising in 1980 and the 1987 June Democratic Uprising.

The need for a constitutional revision was highlighted in light of the corruption scandal of former President Park Geun-hye. The infinite powers enjoyed by Korean presidents are seen as a significant reason for such huge corruption cases. Public consensus was formed for reducing executive powers in response to the Park scandal which ultimately led to her early removal from office.

It is questionable whether the government's draft fundamentally addresses the main purpose of the constitutional revision, which is to fix the problems of a kinglike presidency. A four-year presidency that can be extended by re-election has triggered heavy criticism from the opposition parties because it could end up strengthening presidential powers.

Many people agree on the need for updating the Constitution since its latest revision in 1987, to reflect sweeping social and political changes. Although it is important for the President to honor his election pledge, it is not ideal for the current administration to initiate the revision. The National Assembly should lead the process with rival parties working together to produce a bill that best responds to the people's call for a constitutional amendment. If the Assembly agrees on a bill of its own, then the government bill can be withdrawn.

The President urged the legislature to provide concerted efforts to make headway on the issue in time for the local elections during a luncheon with the commission, Tuesday.

The parties should swiftly embark on procedures to draft a revision bill that addresses the shortcomings of the government's proposals.