Korean presidential candidate pledges to create 2-term, 4-year presidency

Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - South Korean presidential candidate Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party pledged Tuesday to seek constitutional change to introduce a two-term, 4-year presidency, but insisted that discussions should start after the presidential election.

Park also vowed to legislate an open primary system when selecting the party's candidates for the National Assembly and to abolish the party's nomination of regional heads and local assemblymen.

These and other political reform measures were announced just hours before alliance talks commenced between her rivals Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party and independent candidate Ahn Cheo-soo. While it was seen as an attempt to steal away some of the spotlight from the much-awaited get-together of Moon and Ahn, some party sources regretted the timing of the announcement inevitably outshone by her opponents.

"After I assume the presidential office, I will push for revision of the Constitution helpful to the people's lives through sufficient discussion and consensus among the people on various issues including the two-term, four-year presidency and strengthening of the people's natural and basic rights," Park said at a press conference at her campaign headquarters.

Standing next to her was former judge Ahn Dae-hee, head of the Political Reform Committee in charge of Park's reform pledges. He later explained that Park "surprisingly" gave a green light to many radical measures, although others were shelved for being unrealistic.

Park, however, drew a line between her vision for presidential term change and those of her rivals, stating, "I believe it is inappropriate to set the deadline (for the constitutional change) by approaching it strategically for the presidential campaign, or by deciding the content or the conclusion beforehand."

Both Moon and Ahn have been moving to expedite the debate on balancing the power of the president such as through revising the maximum term limit, introducing a vice presidency and sharing power between the president and the prime minister. The issue is expected to take center stage in their negotiation for a single candidacy. Korea currently has a single-term, five-year presidency.

Meanwhile, Park promised to have people participate in selecting the candidates for the National Assembly and abolish the so-called "closed-door" nomination of proportional members as a means to end the centralized power of the party.

Candidates running in the general or presidential elections would be required to finalize their bid two and four months, respectively, prior to the election day to provide ample time for the voters to get to know them.

Lawmakers' exemption from liability would also be strictly restricted and their immunity from arrest ended, Park said. Both proposals would require changes to the Constitution.

The Assembly's Ethics Committee will be comprised wholly of external figures with substantial authority.

"Demarcation of an electorate will not be managed by the candidate as is currently done but fully by external figures to prevent backward political trends like gerrymandering," Park said.

To end the "imperialistic" presidential system, Park vowed to formalize the existing, but rarely practiced, powers of the prime minister to recommend members of Cabinet and bestow personnel authority for affiliated organizations to each minister.

Promising to recruit people beyond the partisan spectrum, Park said an "Equal Opportunity Committee" would be set up to promote policies for equal employment opportunities at public posts and the improved welfare of employees.

She reiterated her campaign pledge to introduce a special investigatory system to be handled by the Assembly for irregularities surrounding a president's associates. A permanent special prosecutors' team would be installed to probe any corruption of high-rank government officials.

Further separating herself from her progressive rivals, Park underscored that political reform could not be the nation's ultimate goal.

"Even though politics is disappointing, we cannot get rid of politics. The purpose of political reform should not be to kill off politics but to restore politics and allow politicians to become more efficient," Park said.

Her competitors have set forth more radical reform proposals, such as to reduce the number of lawmakers (Ahn Cheol-soo), and to decentralize power (Moon Jae-in).

The Saenuri Party, in the meantime, sharply criticized the accelerating alliance moves of Moon and Ahn in an apparent attempt to undermine the threat their single candidacy would pose to Park.

"The people have been stripped of their important right to verify the presidential candidate's characters and policies by falling into the black hole of single candidacy," said Kim Moo-sung, head of Park's General Election Measures Headquarters at a meeting.

"It is a deceptive fraud by the single candidacy scenario, with Ahn planning, producing and taking the leading role by chanting political reform," he said, adding that a joint government of Moon and Ahn would lead to internal power struggles and confusion.

Park is expected to continue finalizing her policies, attacking the opponents' single candidacy as "political colluding," and highlighting the significance of becoming the first woman president.

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