South Korean lawmakers to battle over constitutional reform

SEOUL, April 3 (UPI) — South Korean lawmakers are set to battle over the country’s constitutional amendment, as rival parties draw up starkly different bills for revision.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party on Tuesday unveiled its constitutional revision bill which challenges the proposal submitted by President Moon Jae-in last week, the Hankyoreh reported.

Following the massive corruption scandal surrounding impeached ex-President Park Geun-hye, liberals have insisted presidential powers must be reduced to prevent possible abuse of authority.

Moon’s government-drafted bill, which was adopted by the ruling Democratic Party, reduces the current single-term five-year presidency to four years in office with a chance of one re-election.

However, conservative forces have opposed the government’s proposal, deeming it inappropriate for the president to get involved in constitutional amendment which they say should not be politicized.

Also, they say reducing the presidential term isn’t enough to break up the ‘imperial’ nature of the presidential system.

Instead, LKP lawmakers have proposed measures to decentralize presidential powers by strengthening the authority of the prime minister and the National Assembly, Maeil Business Daily reported.

Under their alternative bill, the president represents the nation as the head of state while allowing more control over administrative affairs to the prime minister.

Political observers predict fierce debate in parliament, over the rival proposals, especially as there are other contentious points of reform, such as the redrawing of the electoral map and the realignment of investigative power between the police and prosecution.

Also, rival parties are expected to remain at odds over the timing of the referendum.

The ruling party has been pushing for a referendum to be held alongside the June 13 local elections, as endorsed by the president, while the LKP is insisting on holding the nationwide vote in September.

In order to pass a constitutional revision, two-thirds of the 299-seat assembly must vote in favor of the bill, after which a majority of the public must approve it in a referendum.