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Parliament speaker calls for open discussion for constitutional revision

National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun on Tuesday vowed to strive for an open and transparent process to revise the constitution. He also urged fellow parliamentarians to come up with an amendment bill within the year so that it can be put to a vote during local elections next June.

“I will open up the process of the constitutional reform to the public and make sure that the revision plan is not swayed by political disputes,” Chung the reporters at a press briefing marking his first year in office.

National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun walks into a briefing room at the legislature to speak to reporters on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun walks into a briefing room at the legislature to speak to reporters on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The parliament’s special committee for constitutional revision, comprising representatives from all four negotiating blocs, decided Monday to work out a revision draft by next February.

“I will actively support the committee,” Chung said.

South Korea’s Constitution was last amended in 1987 to reintroduce direct presidential elections and end decades of military dictatorship. Parties across the aisle agree that the basic law needs to be updated to reflect social and political changes that have taken place over the past 30 years.

As for the direction of the reform, Chung stressed the distribution of power.

“The base of the constitutional revision should be the decentralization of the state power, or it would be a change for the worse,” The 66-year-old veteran lawmaker said.

On the parliamentary gridlock on the Moon Jae-in administration’s personnel nominations and an extra budget plan, Chung expressed both regret and determination to bring the parties together.

“I am regretful that the main opposition party is rejecting all multilateral meetings,” he said, urging the party to return to talks.

The No. 1 conservative Liberty Korea Party has been boycotting meetings held with both the ruling and opposition parties since the Assembly passed a bill to endorse Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon despite its objections.

“Communication is the best answer to the current situation. Yesterday, the president’s visit to the parliament showed his hopes for parties’ cooperation. That hope is also shared by the citizens, and if politicians respect that, it would all work out.”

No party can hold power forever and it is important that the parties foster the wisdom to step back at times, he added.

By Jo He-rim (