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South Korean President Calls for Change to Single Term Limit


South Korean President Park Geun-hye gives a speech at the National Assembly in Seoul. She proposed a change to the constitution that would permit the president to serve more than one term.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has called for a constitutional amendment to permit two terms for the country’s president.

Currently, the president can hold office for only a single five-year term.

Park spoke at South Korea’s National Assembly on Monday about plans for the 2017 budget. She surprised many lawmakers by suggesting a change to the presidential term limit.

Five-year term limits long-term policy goals

Park said the current system makes it difficult for the government to have continuity in some policies.

"The single five-year presidency makes it difficult for the government to pursue consistent and sustainable policy goals,” she said.

One of the goals might include pressing North Korea on its nuclear weapons program. Park also said that changes in policy have made it difficult for South Korean economic leaders to carry out long-term plans.

She said the current single term system has served its purpose.

“The system that has been effective for the last three decades since the last amendment in 1987 might be suited to the past democratization period, but it has now become a piece of clothing that no longer fits," she said.

Park noted the period when South Korea began moving from a military-led government to a democracy. The current system was put in place 29 years ago.

Park’s proposal met with mixed responses. Her popularity has been hurt by accusations of corruption against two close aides. Opposition party lawmakers called the proposal an attempt to direct attention away from those aides.

Park has denied any wrongdoing and called for investigations.

Lawmakers listen to President Park's speech.
Lawmakers listen to President Park's speech.

National Assembly speaker Chung Sye-kyun offered his support for the proposal, calling it a “task that must be done.” Lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party also voiced support for the measure.

A constitutional amendment must be proposed by the president or half of the National Assembly’s members. It must be approved by two-thirds of lawmakers and then pass in a referendum within 30 days of the assembly’s vote.

The five-year, single term limit for South Korea’s president was enacted as the country moved to democratic from military rule. Among those rulers was Park Chung-hee, the president’s father. He ruled the country from 1961 to 1979.

Park Guen-hye’s term ends in February of 2018. She is barred from seeking a second term under the current system.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Fern Robinson and Richard Green reported this story for VOANews.com. Mario Ritter combined and adapted their reports for Learning English. His story includes additional material from AFP, AP and other sources. George Grow was the editor.

Do you think one term is enough for a country’s president? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section.

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Words in This Story

continuity – n. the condition of continuing an activity or policy

consistent – adj. the quality of staying more or less the same over time

sustainable – adj. methods that can be carried out into the future

suit – v. to provide what is needed

referendum – n. a vote on a single issue or policy that is taken by all voters

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