Parties clash over constitutional revision

SEOUL, Rival parties clashed Tuesday over the drafting of a constitutional revision, with the government poised to submit its own proposal for retooling the decades-old charter next week.

The ruling Democratic Party pressed the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) to work together to accelerate the parliamentary process of devising a revision motion, reiterating it should be put to a referendum at the same time as the June local elections.

The LKP, however, restated that the revision must be led by the National Assembly and that it will only be possible based on consensus among the ruling and opposition parties.

The parties have remained poles apart over how and when to amend the Constitution, though they agree that the basic law has failed to embrace social and political changes that have taken place since its last revision in 1987.

In an apparent move to pressure the parties to meet halfway, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae plans to table its own bill on the constitutional change, which reportedly includes enhancing autonomy for provincial governments and reshaping the current five-year presidency into a four-year term that allows for one reelection.

"As the government's revision plan has taken shape, the legislature must speed up the work of drafting its own revision proposal," Woo Won-shik, floor leader of the ruling party, said during a party meeting.

"The LKP is blocking progress in parliamentary discussions about the revision on the pretext of the government draft ... The reason why the government has inevitably stepped in was the LKP holding (the revision process) back," he added.

The LKP strongly protested the government's move to submit its own proposal, accusing it of moving to thwart a "people-led" revision.

"The president's move to table the motion in the midst of parliamentary discussions will not only leave a blemish on the Republic of Korea's constitutional history but also amount to a coercive act of kicking out the people-led revision scheme," Kim Sung-tae, the LKP floor leader, told Yonhap News Agency over the phone.

Kim also renewed his party's opposition to President Moon Jae-in's push for a four-year presidency that allows for one reelection.

"The quintessential aim for the revision is to end the imperial level of presidential power, but the four-year presidency that can be extended by reelection is a mean move to maintain the emperor-like authority," he said.

The LKP has advocated for a power-sharing model under which more authority is given to a prime minister picked by the parliament so as to address the current concentration of power in a single leader, which has been blamed for power abuse, corruption and political polarization.

The minor opposition Bareunmirae Party also opposed the government's plan to table its revision bill and the proposed extension of the presidential term.

"A constitutional revision is not a matter for Cheong Wa Dae to step in," its floor leader Kim Dong-cheol said during a party meeting.

"Parliamentary negotiations can't proceed if there is a failure to meet our three principles: a revision led by the parliament, the abolition of the emperor-like presidential system and a referendum that coincides with the local elections," he added.

A constitutional amendment requires approval from two-thirds of all 293 lawmakers in the unicameral parliament and a majority of voters in a referendum. The ruling party, which only has 121 seats in the legislature, needs the LKP's cooperation for the passage of any revision bills.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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