South Korea president Park proposes revising presidential term as threats from North increase

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday proposed amending the country's Constitution, which currently limits leaders to a single five-year ...


• Senior U.S. diplomat handling THAAD to visit South Korea this week

• North Korea to continue cyber attacks against South

• Former U.S. officials meet North Korean representatives in Malaysia

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday proposed amending the country's Constitution, which currently limits leaders to a single five-year term. 

The current system was introduced in a 1987 constitutional amendment that forced the military junta to agree to a constitutional revision to allow voters to directly choose their president.

During her presidential campaign four year ago, Park had promised changes to the presidential system. It was unclear if this meant the South Korean president was keen to run for office again. 

Under the present system, a president is barred by law from seeking a second term. Park's five-year term ends in February 2018.

“Through the single-term presidency, it is difficult to maintain policy continuance, see results of policy and engage in unified foreign policy,” Park said in an address to parliament.

Political parties in the country were mostly in favour of the revision. 

There were some though who felt this was an attempt to divert attention from irregularities and corruption scandals plaguing the government.

The ruling Saenuri Party welcomed the proposal. "Park has been listening to opinions on the revision through various routes, and the constitutional revision debate, already in parliament, is generating support from the people," the party said, adding the change can help South Korea make the next leap forward.

The Democratic Party, formerly the Minjoo Party of Korea, claimed that the government should not move ahead with the constitutional revision if its aim is to dodge public scrutiny for alleged wrongdoings by acquaintances of the president. 

The party and its lawmakers have generally favored the amendment.

However, the main opposition party felt Park's proposal had "come out of nowhere." 

According to Rep. Youn Kwan-suk, two years ago, Park clearly said she opposes the revision, citing negative impacts on the economy. 

A poll in June this year said a majority of South Koreans were in favor of an amendment to the Constitution. 

Some 70 percent of South Koreans felt the existing constitution should be revised and 40 percent said allowing a president to serve two four-year terms would be more desirable.

The proposed revision is likely to face tough hurdles in getting passed. 

Under the South Korean law, a constitutional revision must win the majority vote in parliament. 

If the revision is proposed by the president, two-thirds of the lawmakers must concede. Accordingly, no single party can make a revision on its own.

Meanwhile, Frank Rose, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, is visiting Seoul this week to "discuss arms control, international security and strategic stability," the department said in a statement. 

The meetings are expected to touch on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) issue. In July, the United States and South Korea decided to deploy a THAAD battery in the South, where thousands of American troops are stationed, to better defend against growing missile and nuclear threats from North Korea, a decision that was met with much disapproval from China, Russia and North Korea.

 

North’s cyber threat to the South

Following the announcement about the deployment, the North has stepped up its provocations in recent months. According to sources, the country is planning more cyberattacks against South Korea and the United States. 

In late 2014, the United States accused Pyongyang of staging cyberattacks on Sony Pictures, which released "The Interview," a fictional movie about assassinating the North's current leader Kim Jong-un.

Pyongyang has also accused the South Korean president of trying to instigate defection by North Koreans.

 

Peace treaty? Not so much…

Meanwhile, in the backdrop of escalating tensions in the wake of the North's recent and most powerful nuclear missile test in September this year in defiance of UN-backed sanctions, senior former U.S. officials met with North Korean representatives over the weekend in Malaysia in an effort to arrive at some sort of peace treaty and continued dialogue between the two countries. 

The North Korean delegation led by the country's deputy ambassador to the United Nations Jang Il-hun held talks with a four-member U.S. delegation that included Robert Gallucci and former high-level U.S. federal government officials. 

Gallucci, a diplomat and academic, was the chief U.S. negotiator of the historic nuclear freeze deal during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994.

However, according to reports, the informal talks have hit a snag as both sides stuck to their old demands that scuttled previous talks. 

The United States is also campaigning hard against a proposed UN General Assembly resolution, led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, which calls for the formal launch of negotiations on a nuclear ban in 2017. 

The U.S. is against the resolution, arguing that the increasing threat from China and Russia, as well as the advancing pace of North Korea's nuclear weapons development, make it unviable for the U.S. and its allies to support such a far-reaching commitment, a report in the Foreign Policy magazine stated.

 

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