Ruling party to hold second day of debate on constitutional revision

By Yonhap
  • Published : Feb 2, 2018 - 11:01
  • Updated : Feb 2, 2018 - 11:01
The ruling Democratic Party will hold a second day of discussions Friday on how to revise the Constitution, with a focus on altering the current power structure accused of giving too much power to the president in a way prone to corruption.

The discussions are part of efforts to come up with a revised draft to be used as a basis for negotiations with opposition parties. The ruling party hopes to hold a referendum to revise the basic law at the same time as local elections in June.

On Thursday, the party held the first day of discussions among its lawmakers and came up with major points for a revision, including naming popular uprisings, such as the 1980 pro-democracy movement in the city of Gwangju and the 2016 candlelight rallies, in the constitution's preface. 

Rep. Woo Won-shik, floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party, speaks during a general meeting of the party`s lawmakers on Feb. 1, 2018.(Yonhap)

Other points include strengthening labor rights, such as guaranteeing the three basic labor rights even for public servants; specifying the state's responsibility to curb real estate speculation; and lowering the minimum age of those eligible to vote to 18.

Friday's debates are expected to focus on how to change the current single five-year presidential system, which was introduced in the last constitutional revision in 1987 with the main purpose of barring the president from attempting to stay in power beyond their term.

But the system has long been under fire for giving the president an "imperial" level of power, which critics argue has made past presidents vulnerable to corruption, cronyism and abuse of power, as seen in the case of ousted former President Park Geun-hye.

Negotiations with the main opposition Liberty Korea Party are unlikely to go smoothly as the conservative party strongly denounced the proposed revision points, accusing the ruling party of seeking a "socialist revolution."

President Moon Jae-in has called on the parties to reach an agreement on the revision by late February, table their revision motion in March and agree to hold a plebiscite on the issue at the same time as the June local elections.

But the LKP disagrees with the proposed schedule, arguing that holding the polls at the same time would run the risk of politicizing the issue and that the revision needs sufficient deliberations.

A constitutional amendment requires approval from two-thirds of all 299 lawmakers in the unicameral parliament and a majority of voters in a referendum. The ruling party, which has only 121 seats in the 299-member legislature, needs the LKP's cooperation for the passage of any revision bill.

The ruling party pressed the LKP to speed up and put forward its proposal by mid-February.

"The Liberty Korea Party said it will put forward a constitutional revision draft by the end of February, but this is not the deadline for it to come up with a proposal but the deadline for the ruling and opposition parties reaching an agreement," Rep. Woo Won-shik, floor leader of the ruling party, said in a radio interview.

"The LKP should finalize its proposal by mid-February," he said.

Asked if the ruling party is willing to unilaterally introduce a revision bill if an agreement is not reached with the opposition party, Woo said he is willing to do so.

The ruling party chief, Rep. Choo Mi-ae, also said the opposition should speed up.

"The Liberty Korea Party should get actively involved (in revision efforts) without ignoring the stern demand from the people any longer," she said during a party meeting.(Yonhap)