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A suspicious proposal

Mar 22,2018
The Blue House is releasing the outline of its proposed changes to the Constitution. The changes aim to decentralize power, increase individual rights and change the government system. The changes to strengthen civil rights and local government sovereignty called for stronger labor protections for government employees and a removal of the state prosecution’s monopoly on arrest warrants. Details of its proposal to overhaul the government by changing the current single-term five-year presidential system will be explained today.

The Blue House explained that the outline is being revealed in separate parts to help the public understand them better. But it is harder to comprehend the outline and overall direction of the new constitution when it is released bit by bit. By law, the president and more than half of National Assembly members are allowed to ask for reforms to the Constitution. To propose an amendment, President Moon Jae-in must explain the changes to the legislature and the people instead of having his senior secretary explain them across three days.

It is unrealistic to rewrite the entire 1987 Constitution and have it ready for a legislative vote in time for the June 13 local elections. The opposition, which dominates the legislature, is not likely to pass the government bill. Pushing ahead with a move to create a new national framework in such an irresponsible manner does little good. It is no wonder the opposition suspects the ruling party is looking for political gains, as they can blame the opposition for blocking the historical attempt to amend the Constitution.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) cannot avoid blame if it stops the president from pressing ahead with a unilateral bill that obviously cannot pass the legislature. It did not live up to its promise to seek legislative reform out of fear of losing votes. The LKP was worried for its candidates in the local elections, as a public referendum on a constitutional amendment would occur on the same day. Still, the president and his government are overstepping if they take the initiative instead of the legislature.

The president must work with the legislature to keep alive his drive for constitutional reform. He is right in criticizing the National Assembly for dithering for a year. But that does not justify forcing a unilateral plan.

Constitutional reform is not a choice, but a must. The key is to decentralize presidential powers and strengthen local government autonomy and civilian rights. Otherwise, the vicious cycle of a president falling due to corruption will not end. Instead of promoting its unfeasible version, the Blue House should try to work with the legislature on a forward-looking and comprehensive bill.


JoongAng Ilbo, March 21, Page 30