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Lesser Role for President Proposed in South Korea

August 19, 1986|From Reuters

SEOUL, South Korea — This country's ruling party published constitutional proposals Monday that would drastically reduce the president's role and hand what it said is substantial executive power to a prime minister and Cabinet.

The draft constitutional amendment calls for both a prime minister and a largely figurehead president to be named by a National Assembly that is elected directly by the people. It would institute checks by the judiciary on the executive and legislative branches.

The Democratic Justice Party wants the change of electoral system to take effect in 1988, when its chief, President Chun Doo Hwan, has pledged to relinquish power.

Saying the scheme would mean a "perpetual expulsion of dictatorship," the ruling party appealed to its political opponents to support the proposal "at this critical juncture which may be the most important turning point in our constitutional history."

Direct Election Urged

But as the draft constitutional amendment was made public, members of the main opposition group in Parliament, the New Korea Democratic Party, repeated their call for a directly elected president. Chun, tagged by opponents as a military dictator, came to power in a military takeover in 1980 and won a seven-year term in 1981 from an electoral college of about 5,000 delegates.

Park Chan Jong, a member of Parliament from the New Korea Democratic Party, dismissed the ruling party's plan as "a disguised presidential system under the name of a parliamentary system."

He said the prime minister's powers under the ruling party's proposal would be greater than those of the directly elected president sought by the opposition party and could produce a "prime minister dictator," with Parliament incapable of holding the government to account.

Chun, who says he wants to leave South Korea a legacy of democracy, has called on ruling and opposition parties to reach agreement within Parliament by the end of this year on the constitution under which his successor will be elected.

The new electoral system must then be approved by national referendum.

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