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Korean Government and the Constitution

Korean Government and the Constitution
Kim, Jong Cheol
Publication Year
Research Report
해외한국법 연구, 13-27-1
The Republic of Korea (“Korea”) has been recognized as one of few countries that have succeeded in achieving both constitutional democracy and economic development since the end of the World War II. Korea is now ranked as the 10th largest country of the world by trading size and play a role in the international community as a member state of G20 and OECD. Korea has completed a six consecutive transfer of powers since 1987 democratization and its constitutional development is basically constant and stable despite the “North Korean Problems”. Its role and contributions to international co-prosperity grows consistently. However, these developments on both domestic and international dimensions are not well recorded and disseminated to foreign researchers who are interested in the causes and effects of a “Korean tale of double success”. This lack of knowledgeable information about Korea is unexceptionally found in the field of the constitutional arrangement where the Korean government operates and its dynamic development takes place. Although there have been several short introductory overviews on the Korean constitutional arrangement and partial or focused essays and articles in this regards, any English textbook on the Korean Government and the Constitution in whatever form have never been published. This short book is intended to compensate this deficit.

This book is concerned with a short history of Korean constitutionalism and the structure and functions of government and their interactions in the Korean constitution. In writing this book, I tried to keep a constitutional lawyer’s perspective though I have also a strong conviction that lawyers’ perspective and peculiar approaches are not complete and comprehensive enough to catch all the diverse aspects of constitutional dynamics. For one thing, the constitution itself is not merely a law but something at the crossroads between the law and the politics or the administration.

This book has taken the form of “cases and materials” not unusual to the common law countries with a strong tradition of empiricism but not familiar to the civil law countries. Two reasons are to be mentioned. The first is a very technical reason related to the main objective of the Korean Law Textbook Series of the Korea Legislation Research Institute (KLRI) to which this book belongs. The character of the books of this series originally intended was a guidebook to provide an introductory map for foreign users to get access to the materials written in both Korean and in non-Korean languages about Korean laws and practices of all fields. However, as noted above, the lack of contents on Korean laws makes us feel that it is too premature to write a guidebook. The original plan therefore was postponed until an abundant content is ready to use. Instead, it was decided that while a short exemplary guide for legal materials on the Korean laws and practices is contained in the appendix, the selective introduction of how laws and practices on each field of life represent in the useful cases and materials is to be written. As the first book of the series, this book attempted to explain the organization, powers and responsibility of government in the Korean constitution in a way of showing the raw materials in the relevant subject. The second reason is my personal ambition to try a new style of textbook on the Korean constitutional law seducing readers’ own initiative to find targeted issues or questions and responses or answers to them from not only texts but also raw materials like constitutional cases and legislations. I believe that as far as constitutional law is concerned, the character of the common law system has begun to come into practice because a number of constitutional law cases have been accumulated and had a great influence on the political system as well as civil society since 1989 when the first unconstitutionality of a statutory law or Act under the 1987 constitutional regime was came out by the Constitutional Court of Korea.

Notwithstanding all these benign purposes, I must confess that the outcome seems to be far behind the anticipated level. Let alone my lacked talent, the time limit set by the KLRI which plans this book has had me confine the scope and quantity of the book to the manageable level. I should like to relieve myself of guilty feelings by promising that I will do my best to write the extended version of this book as soon as possible to cover the issues and materials deserved to be retained but omitted by the process of selection and concentration.
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