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June set for referendum to amend Constitution

Aug 18,2017
A referendum to amend the Constitution will take place in June of next year in time with the local election, President Moon Jae-in said Thursday.

Moon, who took office on May 10 after a snap election the previous day, marked his first 100 days in office with a media conference, addressing a wide range of issues concerning the country’s security and economy.

Moon said the National Assembly’s special committee can make an amendment bill before the local election on June 13, 2018, to hold a referendum on the same day. If the legislature fails to create a plan in time, the government can draft a bill, Moon said, assuring that the Constitution will be amended next year.

He said the amendment will guarantee more autonomy to local governments and expand the basic rights of the people, but spoke ambiguously about whether the change will introduce a new governance system to replace the current five-year, single-term presidency. “We may need more discussions to reform the central power structure,” he said. “But at least, we have a consensus on the local autonomy and stronger basic rights.”

In the past, Moon has promoted the idea that Korea should introduce a four-year presidential system with the possibility of reelection, similar to that of the United States.

Moon also explained his campaign against “accumulated evils” in Korean society, which he listed as a priority of his government, stressing that the goal is not to investigate and punish specific incidents or groups.

“It’s about ending the countless foul plays and privileges that made our society extremely unjust and unfair,” he said. “It is to build a more fair and just society.”

At the press conference, Moon highly rated the appointments he made to form his government and dismissed criticism that he has preferred longtime associates for top posts.

“It is natural from the perspective of a president to form the government with the people who share his governance philosophy,” Moon said. “But I believe in national unity beyond the division of conservatives and liberals, and political unity without factionalism. That is why I hired only a few of those who worked with me in the Roh Moo-hyun administration and since the 2012 presidential campaign, and recruited talented people who worked in past administrations.”

Moon also vowed to overhaul public broadcasters to restore fairness and impartiality. Korea has three public broadcasters - KBS, MBC and EBS. The broadcasters, particularly news programs of KBS and MBC, have been criticized for their bias against liberals during the past decade under two conservative presidents.

Since Moon took office, KBS and MBC journalists have revealed stories of censorship under their managements during the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations. They also staged strikes to demand the resignations of the presidents of government-invested broadcasters, named by Moon’s predecessor Park.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]