Korea’s Constitution Day; history of constitution and …
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Korea’s Constitution Day; history of constitution and …

October 12, 2019

Constitutional revision. An unsolved task for more than a decade…
with some administrations of the past, promising to deliver… but failing in the end. This time it may be different, with clear
set goals and a timeline. But not all support the change. For our news features tonight, Oh Jung-hee
sheds light on the history of the constitution and the ongoing revision discussions. First enacted in 1948,… Korea’s constitution
has been revised nine times over the past seven decades. Some revisions were made by political leaders
wanting to extend their tenure,… others from the public’s resistance movements. In 1972, Korea’s former president Park Chung-hee
changed the constitution to allow indirect presidential elections,… and in 1980, the
constitution was revised to adopt a seven-year, single-term presidency under then-president
Chun Doo-hwan. But through June Democratic Movement in 1987,…
dictatorship came to an end in Korea and the constitution was once again revised — to
allow direct presidential elections… and a five-year, single-term presidency. The 1987 constitution is regarded as a fruit
of Korean people’s political activism and the basis for democracy. But 30 years have passed with no changes to
it at all. The need for constitutional revision has been
highlighted by the political scandal surrounding ex-president Park Geun-hye last year,… and
all five major candidates of this year’s presidential election — including the current President
Moon Jae-in — pledged to amend the constitution. “There’s been plenty of debate in the
National Assembly as well. Early this year, a special committee on constitutional
reform was formed… with dozens of lawmakers from all sides discussing various issues,
from reorganizing power structures, to civil rights.” The most hotly debated… is the presidential
system. “For the 1987 presidential election,… the
political leaders wanted to leave some possibility open… for them to re-run in the near future
if they fail,… so chose a five-year, single-term presidency over a four-year, two-term one. Now, people think… that system grants excessive
authority to the president.” Other systems being suggested include a four-year,
two-term presidency,… a semi-presidential system… and a parliamentary government. Many see the semi-presidential system — where
the president is in charge of foreign affairs and the prime minister handles domestic affairs
— as a plausible middle ground. Decentralization of power is another issue. “When revising the constitution next year,
I’m planning to add in articles that strengthen the regional governments’ power… and enable
cabinet meeting with all regional leaders.” Local governments in Korea need to go through
the central government when resolving issues… which overloads the central government. Experts say, local governments need to be
given the authority and finances… to come up with policies most appropriate for themselves…
and achieve innovation. “The issues we face now… like unemployment,
an aging society and the fourth industrial revolution… don’t have one clear answer. So rather than the national government leading
with one policy, it’s better to have as many experiments held in different regions.” The National Assembly’s special committee
aims to have a joint proposal ready by February 2018. So that a referendum can be held next June…
along with the local elections. “Quite a few presidents pledged constitutional
revision when they were candidates,… but after they took office, they opposed it, saying
it may hinder executing other policies. Later in their term, they’d bring up constitutional
revision… which many saw as a politically motivated move… and wouldn’t cooperate. But this time, the consensus on the need for
constitutional revision is deeper than ever. I think it will be successful.” To reflect public opinion as much as possible,
the parliament is receiving citizens’ views through its website. It also plans to hold public hearings, large-scale
roundtable discussions, and opinion polls. ” There should be various opinions from the
civil society on fairness and objectivity of the new constitution. So civil groups will have to lead the discussions
among the public — teaching them how our constitution is formed and why revising it
is necessary.” It’s an amendment that’s been three decades
coming… after Korea’s fast-paced development. The tenth revision would need to reflect changes
in people’s lives and perception… to stand as the basis for a more fair and transparent
society. Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.

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