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Amendment failure

May 26,2018
President Moon Jae-in’s proposal to amend the 1987 Constitution was made invalid due to a lack of the quorum for a vote amid a boycott by the main opposition party. Its failure came as no surprise as the overall design and details were all contested by the opposition. Moreover, constitutional reform led by the president is impossible in an opposition-led legislature. Although the keystone of the amendment was to dilute the mighty power of a president by revising the five-year single-term presidency, much of the details fell short of curbing or keeping presidential power in check.

Moon’s setback, however, raises concerns about the steam escaping from calls for constitutional reform. Politicians may fear renewing the campaign after they bucked the president’s scheme to pursue a referendum on constitutional reform when voters hit the polling stations for June 13 local elections. The newly organized leadership of the main parties will hardly have the leisure to discuss constitutional reform with various contentious issues — a special counsel probe on an online opinion rigging scandal and various reform bills — pending at the legislature.

But the general public generally believes in changes to the Constitution. Both the ruling and opposition camps are at fault for derailing constitutional amendment momentum. Political parties representing the people have the duty to sit down and rigorously work on updating the highest law of the land. The legislature must discuss a roadmap for constitutional reform as soon as possible.

Principles must be safeguarded. Presidents under the 1987 Constitution all had disgraceful exits and retirements because of the concentration of powers in a president with a single term. The Korean presidential system unquestionably needs fixing. The primary focus therefore should be restructuring our uneven power structure.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 25, Page 30