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Cheong Wa Dae unveils a constitutional revision bill

Posted March. 21, 2018 07:55,   

Updated March. 21, 2018 07:56


South Korea’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae has unveiled part of President Moon Jae-in’s constitutional revision bill that would add the nation’s historic pro-democracy movements including the May 18th Gwangju democratization movement, the Busan-Masan protests and the June 10th democracy movement to the current preamble, which mentions only the April Revolution. Cheong Wa Dae will continue to reveal more of the proposal by Thursday to put pressure on the National Assembly.

“The proposed preamble to the new Constitution underscored that the nation upholds the democratic ideals of the April 19th Revolution of 1960, the Busan-Masan protests of 1979, the May 18th Gwangju Democratic Uprising of 1980 and the June 10th democracy movement in the 1980s,” Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affair, said at a briefing Tuesday. However, Cheong Wa Dae has decided not to add the recent candlelit protests, saying the movement was still making changes.

The government’s revision bill has also expanded the scope of basic rights, from the current “Korean citizens” to “humans,” to include foreign nationals residing in Korea. “Considering two million foreigners are staying, as well as international standards for human rights, the bill has expanded the subject of natural rights,” Cho said. It has also strengthened workers’ three primary rights, partly including civil servants, namely the right to organize, to bargain collectively, and the right of collective action. Cho said that the government would also replace the word “worker” with “laborer” in the constitution.

Cheong Wa Dae’s bill has also removed the constitutional right of the prosecution to monopolize the right to request an arrest warrant. Cho said that no other OECD country, except Greece and Mexico, has a constitution that stipulates the subject of requesting an arrest warrant, hinting at a possible adjustment of investigation rights among the authorities. In a bid to intensify the value of direct democracy, the government has also vowed to reinforce people’s sovereignty by authorizing the public to recall elected officials and lawmakers and to propose bills.

Cho stressed the need for the constitutional amendment, saying that the revision would change people’s lives and the new Republic of Korea would begin with the revision. However, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) spokesman Hong Ji-man criticized the proposed bill, saying, “The bill has no mention of decentralizing the power of the imperial presidential system and all the historical events in the preamble are leftist.” Cheong Wa Dae will disclose parts of decentralization and people’s sovereignty on Wednesday, and the rights and privileges of constitutional institutions including the form of government on Thursday.

Sang-Jun Han alwaysj@donga.com