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Constitutional Amendment

Posted October. 15, 2010 11:36,   


President Lee Myung-bak is known to have urged key figures of the ruling camp to pursue a constitutional amendment, saying power is too concentrated in the president. He also said, “A responsible prime minister system is in place, but has not been implemented well since the president has the power to appoint the prime minister,” urging the introduction of a vice president so that administration of external affairs such as diplomacy, national security and defense can be separated from that of internal affairs.

The Constitution was established as the result of the 1987 pro-democracy movement. Some say the national power structure, including the authority and term of the president, was set without sufficient consideration. President Lee also said, “Excessive concentration of power in the president tends to result in devaluation of the previous administration’s achievements after the transition of power.” He apparently means that excessive social and political conflict and confrontation are related to the concentration of power in the president. His comments have grabbed notice since he expressed them after more than two and a half years in office.

The recognition of the Constitution`s weakness is not the same as pursuit of an amendment, however. The opportune time and priority always matter in politics. In the latter half of the administration’s term, it is difficult to gain political momentum for an amendment. The government and political circles also have a host of important challenges in national security and economy that require their attention and energy. How to deal with such challenges will determine the nation’s fate. In such a situation, discussion on constitutional revision is probably inappropriate.

Consensus among politicians and the people is a prerequisite for a constitutional amendment. The revision is virtually out of the question since the ruling camp differs in its opinion depending on factions and interests let alone opposition from rival parties. It could also waste time and national energy as shown in the attempt to revise the Sejong City development plan. President Lee should not officially press the ruling camp to pursue an amendment. Equally undesirable is the ruling party’s attempt to allow a “review committee" on the four-river restoration project as demanded by the main opposition Democratic Party in return for setting up a “special committee” on constitutional revision.

Without amending the Constitution, the concentration of power can be resolved through other means such as by delegating more power to the prime minister and the Cabinet. The practice of the presidential office intervening in the affairs of the ruling party and the personal management of director-level public officials should first be abolished. A constitutional amendment should be left to the people’s judgment through the election platforms of candidates in the next presidential election.