Appeared in Korea Times on 01-31-2007
Dear Prof. Sean Hayes: An issue that has suddenly been proposed by President Roh Moohyun is the amendment of the Constitution to give the future president a four-year one-time renewable term and also to align the presidential election with the National Assembly elections. Currently, the president has a five-year non-renewable term and the presidential election is not held on the same date as the National Assembly elections, since Assemblypersons have four-year terms. Is Roh’s proposal worth trying? Proud Korean citizen
Dear Proud: The system of two four-year renewable terms was proposed to lessen the cost of elections by aligning the dates of elections; to keep government policy consistent by allowing presidents the possibility of an eight-year term; to help eliminate the present system’s lameduck year; and for a variety of other reasons.
Whether it is a good idea or not may depend on your political leanings and ideology , since the system may bring forth more liberal and younger candidates.
First, aligning the presidential election with the National Assembly Election will lead to a larger number of voters voting in the National Assembly elections.
The presidential elections have larger voter turnouts than the National Assembly elections and hence aligning the election days will lead to a higher voter turnout. Traditionally, the well established in society vote in every election, while the younger and less established tend not to vote as often and often tend only to vote in the “major” elections.
The well established tend to be more conservative, while the less established tend to be more liberal.
Hence, the system may lead to more liberal voters voting in National Assembly elections, thus benefiting more liberal candidates.
Secondly, having the possibility of an eight-year term may lead voters and parties to consider older candidates not acceptable, since they may be considered too old to successfully complete their last term. I think under the proposed system the age and health of former President Kim Dae Jung, for instance, may have become a more significant issue.
I haven’t heard this issue mentioned in the newspapers. Therefore, I think neither party has considered these issues, but I bet many opposing party members, if they consider this issue, may be opposed to the seemingly logical change.
American Attorney Sean Hayes is a professor at Kookmin University School of Law and a researcher for the Constitutional Court. Direct questions to SeanHayes@ahnse.com.