Public opinion polls on Constitutional Amendment and Candlelight Revolution (Unit: %)
While most politicians are interested in constitutional amendment as a means of transferring some presidential authority to dismantle the “imperial” presidential system, the South Korean public prefers maintaining the framework of the current presidential system while allowing two four-year terms, a new poll shows.
In a public opinion poll commissioned by the Hankyoreh and carried out by Research Plus on Dec. 28 and Dec. 29, 37.8% of respondents who were asked what government structure they prefer chose a four-year two-term presidential system, making it the most popular choice. 23.2% of respondents favored a semi-presidential system that would transfer some presidential powers to the prime minister, and 19.9% favored maintaining the current five-year single-term presidential system. Support for the parliamentary system, in which the government is led by a prime minister elected by the majority party, received the least support, at 7.7%.
The four-year two-term presidential system was the most popular choice among people in their 30s (34.1%), in their 40s (46.9%), in their 50s (40%) and in their 60s and older (35.6%). People in their 20s were most likely to prefer maintaining the current five-year single-term presidential system (33.6%), followed by the four-year two-term presidential system (31.1%). Respondents all favored the four-year two-term presidential system regardless of their ideological affiliation, with 38.9% of conservatives, 44.3% of moderates and 38.1% of progressives supporting that option.
While politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties think that South Korea should move to a parliamentary or semi-presidential system because of the gross abuses of the imperial presidential system made manifest in the Choi Sun-sil scandal, the people do not seem to want a complete overhaul of the current presidential system that has been in place since the constitutional reform of 1987.
One of several major questions concerning constitutional amendment is whether it will consist of a narrow amendment that only changes the government structure or whether it will be a sweeping reform including adjustments of the basic rights of citizens to reflect changes in South Korean society. While debate among politicians has focused on the government structure, public opinion is overwhelmingly in support of amending not just the ruling structure but other parts of the constitution, including the section on basic rights (favored by 68.2% of respondents). Just 16.3% of respondents said that only the government structure should be revised. Support for amending other sections of the constitution, and not just the ruling structure, was stronger on the left of the ideological spectrum of conservatives (63%), moderates (68.9%) and progressives (74.7%).
Areas other than the government structure that politicians say could be targeted by constitutional amendment include devolving more powers currently concentrated in the central government to local government, increasing “economic democratization” to resolve polarization and guaranteeing more basic rights. Gyeonggi Province Governor Nam Kyung-pil argues that the relocation of the capital - which was previously thwarted by the Constitutional Court - could be achieved through a constitutional amendment.
By Lee Kyung-mi, staff reporter
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