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Assembly speaker pushes for constitutional revision talks

Jan 16,2018
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Chung Sye-kyun
The National Assembly’s speaker on Monday renewed his calls for rival parties to accelerate political talks on a constitutional revision amid prolonged disputes over when and how to retool the decades-old basic law.

Chung Sye-kyun made the remarks after President Moon Jae-in warned Wednesday that the government would take over the revision job should rival parties fail to reach a consensus.

“The National Assembly should complete talks on a constitutional amendment so that the president does not have to weigh in,” Chung said during his press conference for the new year.

“If the assembly that has protected the constitutional order ignores the pledge with citizens and fails to even table a motion for the revision, it will amount to denying its reason for being. ... The assembly should be the one that earns its keep,” he added.

The speaker then reiterated that the parties must submit a motion for the revision by mid-March and agree to hold a referendum on it simultaneously with the local elections slated for June.

“The constitutional revision is the biggest task for the 20th National Assembly,” he said. “If you look back on history, there have been constitutional revisions following civil revolutions. ... The 10th revision must be a future-oriented one that embraces the spirits of the candlelight civil revolution.”

Chung was referring to nearly six months of the candlelight protests that led to the dismissal of former President Park Geun-hye in March, who is currently on trial for a string of corruption charges, including bribery and abuse of power.

Over the past year, a special parliamentary committee on the amendment has sought to build political consensus on the highly divisive issue. But little progress has been made amid partisan disputes on when and how to retool the Constitution. Rival parties have sparred over when to hold a referendum on the revision.

The ruling Democratic Party hopes to hold the referendum at the same time as this year’s local elections. But the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) argues that holding the polls at the same time would run the risk of politicizing the issue and that the revision needs sufficient deliberations.

The ruling party, which has only 121 seats in the 299-member legislature, needs the LKP’s cooperation in the passage of any revision bill.

Tabling the proposal for a constitutional change requires backing from a majority of lawmakers. Passage of a bill needs support from two-thirds of the legislators. It then has to win majority support in a referendum.

Yonhap