Published : 2014-01-01 19:41
Updated : 2014-01-01 19:42
A bipartisan group of 116 legislators held a workshop last week to discuss the issue of revising the Constitution that was last amended in 1987. They agreed to begin full-fledged efforts this month to enlist other parliamentary members to put forward a motion on a constitutional amendment, possibly within this year.
Their move comes amid a widening perception that the basic law needs revising to keep up with changes in Korean society over the past decades. A recent survey showed more than 80 percent of the 300 members in the current National Assembly support a constitutional revision. A series of polls also found a majority of the electorate in agreement on the need to rewrite the basic law.
The Constitution has been revised nine times since it was first promulgated in 1948, thee years after the nation was liberated from Japan’s colonial rule. Minimizing changes in the basic law may be desirable to ensure a stable constitutional order.
Nevertheless, it seems necessary to change some parts of the Constitution, which the nation has outgrown since a long pro-democracy movement ended the succession of military-backed dictatorial regimes a quarter of a century ago.
Its limitation of the presidential tenure to a single five-year term reflects the public’s bad memories of previous authoritarian rulers’ attempts to extend their rule. Under the current system, however, presidents have been tempted to focus on things that can be accomplished in a single term, rather than drawing up policies from a long-term perspective. This tendency can be problematic, especially in dealing with North Korea at a time when Pyongyang’s leadership itself remains volatile. Serious consideration should be given to changing the maximum presidential tenure to two four-year terms.
It may also be necessary to ease the concentration of power in the president by giving more authority to the Cabinet, parliament and regional governments. In any case, however, a president should be mandated to exercise effective power to implement his or her duties, especially in the fields of unification, foreign affairs and security.
President Park Geun-hye is advised to cooperate with political circles to ensure that the growing momentum toward a constitutional revision leads to tangible results in 2014, before it loses steam in the latter part of her term in office.