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Gov't drafts own bill on constitutional revision

All Headlines 18:06 March 12, 2018

SEOUL, March 12 (Yonhap) -- The government has nearly finished drawing up its own proposal for constitutional amendment, officials from a government committee said Monday, which, if implemented, may dramatically change the country's whole political landscape for the first time in over three decades.

The proposal is set to be reported to President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday, the officials from the special advisory committee on constitutional revision said, leaving the president with the final decision on whether or not the government will submit its own bill to the National Assembly.

Government deliberations on a possible constitutional change began earlier in the year at a direct instruction from the president, who insists the move must be put to a vote concurrently with the local elections on June 13 to prevent wasting government resources.

Moon says a stand-alone national referendum will cost up to 120 billion won (US$112.6 million) in taxpayers' money.

Whether he will actually send the government bill to parliament remains to be seen, while many believe the government proposal was meant to put pressure on the rival parties to reach an agreement on their own proposal in the first place.

Officials from the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said the government will build on the report of the special advisory committee to finalize its bill.

However, the government will withdraw its bill should parliament come up with its own in time.

"If the ruling and opposition parties come up with a single proposal, withdrawing the government bill will naturally be the next step in the process," a ranking Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters, while speaking on condition of anonymity.

Details of the government proposal have yet to be released, let alone finalized as the special committee was in a last-minute session to do so, but many, including the president, have said it must at least include a change to the presidential system to disperse some executive powers, but also to allow presidents to be reelected.

Currently, the presidency is limited to a single five-year term, an apparent cause of most South Korean leaders becoming lame ducks in his or her last, or even fourth or third, year in office.

The current system was introduced in 1987 when the South Korean Constitution was last amended, with an apparent aim to prevent long-term seizure of power following the 19-year dictatorial reign of the late Park Chung-hee and a nine-year rule by former President Chun Doo-hwan, both of whom came to power through military coups.

The government proposal is expected to allow one-time, consecutive reelection, meaning those who fail to win reelection immediately following his or her initial term will be barred from running for the office again.

The change, even if implemented, will not affect the incumbent president under the current Constitution, which prohibits such changes.

The section that prohibits changes affecting the incumbent leader will also be left intact, Cheong Wa Dae and committee officials have said.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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