As the nation underwent political upheavals in pursuit of democratic development, the Korean Constitution has been amended nine times, the last time on October 29, 1987.
The manuscript of the first Constitution of the Republic of Korea (Photo courtesy of the Korea University Museum)
The current Constitution represents a major advancement in the direction of full democratization. Apart from the legitimate process by which it was passed, a number of substantive changes are notable. They include the curtailment of presidential powers, the strengthening of the power of the legislature and additional devices for the protection of human rights. In particular, the creation of a new, independent Constitutional Court played a vital role in making Korea a more democratic and free society.
The Constitution consists of a preamble, 130 articles, and six supplementary rules. It is divided into 10 chapters: General Provisions, Rights and Duties of Citizens, the National Assembly, the Executive, the Courts, the Constitutional Court, Election Management, Local Authority, the Economy, and Amendments to the Constitution.
The basic principles of the Korean Constitution include the sovereignty of the people, separation of powers, the pursuit of peaceful and democratic unification of South and North Korea, the pursuit of international peace and cooperation, the rule of law and the responsibility of the state to promote welfare.
A constitutional amendment requires special procedures different from other legislation. Either the President or a majority of the National Assembly may submit a proposal for a constitutional amendment. An amendment needs to be passed not only by the National Assembly but also in a national referendum. The former requires support of two-thirds or more of the National Assembly members, while the latter requires more than one half of all votes cast by more than one half of eligible voters in a national referendum.
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