S Korean new speaker calls for parties’ bill to revise Constitution by year-end

Update: July, 17/2018 - 10:40

SEOUL — South Korea’s new parliamentary speaker vowed efforts Tuesday to prod ruling and opposition parties to reach an agreement on a bill to revise the Constitution by the end of the year.

Moon Hee-sang, who was elected last Friday, called a constitutional revision "the people’s order" as parliament failed to handle a government-proposed constitutional revision bill earlier this year amid a partisan standoff.

"As speaker, I will make my utmost efforts to help rival parties make a bill on the constitutional revision by the end of this year," Moon said in a speech celebrating the 70th anniversary of Constitution Day.

He expressed regret that the country marked the anniversary without a new Constitution.

"Nevertheless, about 80 percent of people call for seeking the Constitution revision again," said the speaker, who will head the National Assembly for a two-year term.

In March, President Moon Jae-in submitted the constitutional revision bill that calls for changing the current single five-year presidential term to a maximum of two successive four-year terms.

South Korea’s Constitution was last revised in 1987 after decades of military-backed authoritarian rule. The current single, five-year presidential term was then adopted, together with a direct presidential election system.

But the current system has been also blamed for concentrating too much power to a president.

Moon earlier wanted to allow people to vote on the constitutional revision in the June local elections. But the National Assembly failed in April to revise the law on national referendums, making it impossible to hold a concurrent vote on it.

Opposition parties have been calling for the constitutional revision to end the current presidential system after they were stung by a crushing defeat in the June 13 local elections.

"The 1987 Constitution was made out of the necessity that the direct presidential election system was the only short cut to democracy in the face of dictatorship," Speaker Moon said. "It is the time to take off old clothes and wear new ones." — YONHAP