Theme: Government & Parliament | Content Type: Journal article

South Korea: The Lasting Pitfalls of the ‘Imperial Presidency’

Jörg Michael Dostal

korean parl

Korean Cultural and Information Service

| 1 min read

The use of the term ‘imperial presidency’ in South Korea refers to the fact that the country's 1987 constitution grants the state's highest office holder de facto imperial powers with regard to domestic and foreign policy making. This version of the term therefore differs from Arthur M. Schlesinger's usage in the US context, which was critical of the discretionary powers exercised by US presidents in efforts to subvert the checks and balances of the US Constitution. Concentrating political power in the South Korean presidency severely curtails the work of the other political institutions, including its parliament (the National Assembly). Every time the presidency changes hands, the leadership structures of all other public institutions are subjected to major restructuring according to political loyalty, which interrupts their routine functioning. Overall, the presidency in its current form is dysfunctional and works as a barrier against democratic deepening. This article examines why lengthy debate over South Korea's imperial presidency has so far failed to result in comprehensive constitutional reform.

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    Jörg Michael Dostal

    Jörg Michael Dostal is Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University, Republic of Korea.

    Articles by Jörg Michael Dostal