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President Moon’s Proposal for Constitutional Amendment

President Moon Jae-in and the Blue House, the Presidential Office of Korea, announced that a presidential proposal for a constitutional amendment was billed on March 26th, 2018.

Constitutional Amendments in Korea

The Constitution of Korea has gone through nine amendments during the past 70 years since it was established. The first Constitution, created in 1948, was amended twice by President Lee Seung-man to select a direct presidential election system and allow unlimited reappointments. Although the Constitution was amended two more times through a democratic revolution, the subsequent four were made for dictatorship objectives.

The ninth amendment was made after the June Democratic Movement in 1987 to end the military dictatorship of Chun Doo-hwan. The ninth amendment regulated a single five-year term in office, a direct presidential election system, and an enhancement of the National Assembly’s legislative power.

President Moon and his advisors at the Blue House announced a proposal for constitutional amendments on March 20th and 22nd. The Blue House mentioned that “the current Constitution lacks guidance in many modern problems, since it has been unchanged for the past 30 years.” The official proposal is expected to be billed on March 26th, 2018.

Key Points of President Moons Proposal

Cho Kuk, Senior Secretary to the President for Civil Affairs, spoke about the main contents of the presidential proposal.

Cho Kuk’s Presentation on the Presidential Proposal/ The Korea Herald

The first proposal was to decrease economic polarization and resolve social inequality issues. Cho Kuk explained, “The concept of land as a public resource will be stipulated by making obligations in special cases. The land itself would belong to individuals, but portions of profits will be taken by the country under certain conditions.”

Another key proposal was the decentralization of Korea’s governance. President Moon plans on changing the terminology of the “local governing associations” in Korea, to “local governments” and implementing methods to increase their rights and authorities. The local governments will have their own legislative and executive branches as well as the rights to collect taxes based on their policies. Moreover, residents will be given the right to propose new bills and participate in votes regarding local laws. President Moon proposed this amendment due to Korea’s imbalanced growth between the capital and other regions. He thinks that further concentration of the population in Seoul will lead to the dissipation of rural cities, counties and districts.

The two-term presidential system also received much public attention. President Moon, however, will not be able to benefit from the amendment even though it is passed.

Reactions from the Media and Politicians

Criticism followed Cho Kuk’s public announcement of President Moon’s intents to propose a constitutional amendment. Shin Bo-ra from the Liberty Korea Party called this proposal a “political show” and mentioned the process through which a constitutional amendment is passed. In order for a constitutional amendment to be accepted, two thirds of all National Assembly members must agree on it. In other words, 196 of the current 296 National Assembly members have to agree regardless of whether they show up for the voting. Shin claimed that a high attendance rate cannot be expected given the past conflicts between Korea’s political parties.

Chun Jung-bae also raised his concerns against President Moon’s proposal. The constitutional amendment will never happen unless an agreement satisfying the many political parties of the National Assembly is proposed. For such a proposal to happen, Chun thinks that it is imperative for President Moon and the Blue House to lead a negotiation to end all controversies.

President Moon, on the other hand, showed his dissatisfaction on the lack of progress made by the National Assembly members. A special committee of Assembly members was formed to produce a constitutional amendment over a year ago, but they suggested nothing during that period. The Blue House has consistently mentioned that an amendment on the Constitution has to be made by June, and a presidential proposal would be made if the Assembly does not come up with anything by February; which is what happened.

최영찬  cyc1117@naver.com

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