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Prime minister nominee urges constitutional amendment, electoral reform

Politics 16:53 December 19, 2019

SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- The nominee to become South Korea's prime minister, Chung Sye-kyun, made a public call Thursday for constitutional revision and electoral reform, saying such measures can normalize politics here and resolve the social problem of "ultra conflicts."

"My thought is that there's no other way but to amend the Constitution, which is the basic law of the nation, in order to change politics," he told a forum in Seoul.

The forum was scheduled before his nomination as prime minister earlier this week.

If appointed, Chung would become South Korea's first prime minister to have served as National Assembly speaker.

While Chung was leading parliament last year, President Moon Jae-in formally proposed revising the Constitution to overhaul the political power structure of the country.

Moon's initiative ended up failing due to protests by opposition parties.

Among his suggestions is the replacement of the current five-year single presidential term with a four-year, two-term one. Moon attached a condition that the change, if made, won't be applied to himself.

Prime minister nominee Chung Sye-kyun delivers a special lecture during a Seoul forum on Sept. 19, 2019. (Yonhap)

Prime minister nominee Chung Sye-kyun delivers a special lecture during a Seoul forum on Sept. 19, 2019. (Yonhap)

"The embers of constitutional revision have not been put out yet," Chung said. "The National Assembly should put forward a constitutional revision plan in consensus between ruling and opposition parties and receive the people's choice."

He pointed out that many people were in support of constitutional revision. As the Constitution here was last amended in 1987, they believe the current version is outdated, especially in terms of the presidential system.

In addition, Chung stressed the urgency of introducing a "fair rule of game" for elections.

He was referring to long drawn-out partisan strife, which has put the National Assembly in virtual paralysis.

"I agree that South Korea is now an unprecedented ultra-conflict society," the nominee said. "Resolving such conflicts is the role of politics."

Now that democratic politics are not working properly, people are tempted to stage street rallies to get their voice heard and vent anger, including the gatherings at the Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul, according to Chung. The phenomenon is sarcastically called "square politics."

Ruling and opposition parties are embroiled in ferocious wrangling over electoral reform in advance of the April 15 general elections next year.


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