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Politics in Korea



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Korea's Government

The year 1998 marks the fiftieth anniversary of both the adoption of the Constitution and the establishment of the Republic of Korea.  As a constitutionally based, democratic government is still relatively young, debates regarding major government changes, like the adoption of a parliamentary system, are still ongoing.  Prior to the establishment of the Republic in 1948, Korea experienced thirty-five year of Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945) followed by three years of American military rule (1945-1948).  The Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910 placed Korea under a foreign rule for the first time in its history.

Since its transformation into a republic, the Korean government, except for a brief period between August 1960 and July 1961 when a parliamentary system was in place, has maintained a presidential system, wherein the President is the head of state and chief executive.  Under the present system, government power is shared principally by three branches: the legislative, judicial and executive.  In addition, two other constitutionally-based institutions, the Constitutional Court and the National Election Commission, also perform governing functions.

The legislature consists of a single-house National Assembly, whose 299 members serve four-year terms.  The organizational components of the National Assembly are: the individual members, the presiding officers (the Speaker and two Vice Speakers), the plenary, the committees (16 standing committees as well as special ad hoc committees), the negotiation groups, and the supporting administrative organs.  Besides deliberating bills concerning general legislation, government budget, and ratification of international treaties, the National Assembly is also empowered to inspect and audit the administration, and to approve the appointments of the Prime Minister and the Director of the Board of Inspection and Audit.  The National Assembly may, according to law, impeach public officials, and may adopt motions recommending to the President the removal of executive officials, including the Prime Minister. 

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The judiciary consists of three tiers of courts: the Supreme Court; the high courts or appellate courts; the district courts.  Currently, the judiciary is exclusively a central government function; no provincial or local government may establish its own court or prosecution system.  The Supreme Court consists of thirteen Justices and a Chief Justice.  High courts are placed in five locations which serve as regional centers.  Besides the three-tier court system, the judiciary also operates a family court, an administrative court and a patent court.

The executive branch, headed by the President, consists of the Prime Minister, the State Council, seventeen executive ministries, seventeen independent agencies, the Board of Inspection and Audit, and the National Intelligence Service.  The President, elected by popular vote for a single five-year term, has absolute power needed for operating the executive branch and leading the country.  The Prime Minister, appointed by the President with the approval of the National Assembly, supervises the ministries and independent agencies.  The Prime Minister performs this function under the supervision of the President, and in this sense he/she is the chief assistant to the President.

Local governments are considered part of the executive branch and thus are controlled by the central government.  (Here "local governments" refers broadly to all sub-national governments.)  However, some degree of local autonomy has been given to the 16 higher-level (provincial) governments and 34 lower level (municipal) governments.  This autonomy resumed, after a time lapse of more than thirty years, on July 1, 1995 - a date marking a return to direct, popular elections for local chief executives.  Prior to this, local governments had been simply local branches of the central government, with the latter appointing and dispatching the chiefs.  Despite the change, the autonomous power of local governments at this point remains quite limited.  Virtually all major policies, including those specifying local government functions, taxation, resident welfare and services, and personnel management, are determined by the central government.

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Information provided by the Korean Embassy


Korea's Constitution

The Constitution of the Republic of Korea was first promulgated on July 17, 1948.  Since then, it has been amended nine times, with the October 27, 1987 amendment being the last one.  The focus of the amendments has generally been on the President's powers and method of election, and to a lesser extent, the structure of the legislature.

Under the original constitution, the President was elected by the single-house National Assembly.  The first amendment, made in 1952, provided for direct election of the President by popular vote, in addition to provided for a bicameral legislature.  The second amendment, adopted in 1954, includes a provision for the Vice President to succeed the President in case of his/her death or incapacitation.  In July 1960, the Constitution was amended a third time by the interim government which followed the overthrow of authoritarian President Syngman Rhee (this overthrow having been occasion by a popular uprising led by students and supported by the military).  This third amendment marked the adoption of a parliamentary system, wherein the Prime Minister served as chief executive, while a popularly elected President served as the head of state and commander of armed forces.  The fourth amendment, in November 1960, added a special provision to the Constitution which enabled the National Assembly to enact retroactive laws aimed at punishing those directly involved in election fraud, or punishing those responsible for the the killing or wounding of people protesting such frauds.  Others liable for punishment included those engaged in anti-democratic activities as well as those public officials who, while serving the previous government, were later convicted of corruption.

The fifth amendment (which corresponds to the first rewriting of the Constitution) was made in 1962 by the military government which followed the military coup-d-etat of 1961.  This amendment put the presidential system and the single-house legislature back in place.  The sixth amendment, written in 1969, included a provision to relax restrictions on the number of consecutive terms a president could serve.  The limit was raised from two terms to three, thus enabling President Park Chung Hee to seek a third consecutive term.  The seventh amendment in 1972 (the second rewriting) went still further, effectively allowing President Park Chung Hee to rule for life.  This was accomplished by, on one hand, eliminating restrictions on the number of terms the President could serve, and on the other hand, devising indirect elections of the President through a newly created electoral college.  Under this Constitution, the President was truly all-powerful, with the authority to fill one-third of the seats in the National Assembly, to dissolve the National Assembly, and to issue emergency decrees that could be easily used as means to oppress opposition groups or individuals.

The eighth amendment (the third rewriting) was made in October 1980 by the military government of Chun Doo Hwan, who took power following the assassination of President Park Chung Hee in October 1979.   The amendment provided for a single seven-year term for the President, while maintaining the system of indirect elections through an electoral college (thus shielding Chun Doo Hwan from the risk of defeat in a popular election). The ninth and last amendment (the fourth rewriting) was made in 1987.  It restored popular elections for the President, who was henceforth restricted to a single five-year term. 

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The Constitution provides for a three-branch governing system whereby law-making functions are in the preserve of the National Assembly, administrative functions are in the preserve of the executive branch, headed by the President, and judicial functions belong to the courts.  Structurally, these three branches are highly independent of each other.  The members of the national Assembly are elected by the people, and the National Assembly's leaders and officers are chosen by the members themselves.  As for the President, he/she is not required to obtain the approval of the national Assembly in appointing top executive officials,  except in the case of the Prime Minister and the Director of the Board of Inspection and Audit.  The head of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, although appointed by the President with the consent of the national Assembly, possesses the power to recommend to the President the appointment of Supreme Court Justices, and has the power to appoint all other judges.

It is not the Supreme Court but the Constitutional Court that has the authority to render judgments regarding the constitutionality of laws, impeachment cases, and the dissolution of political parties.  The Constitutional Court also adjudicates jurisdictional disputes between government agencies, between national and local governments, and between different local governments.

The Constitution supports a free-market economy.  It declares that the nation's economic order is based on recognizing individual and corporate freedom and creativity.  It provides that the right to acquire, develop and use natural resources and to grant them exclusively to particular agent(s) for a period of time specified by law.  it also recognizes State obligations to ensure cultivation by land-owners, and to support efficient and balanced development regarding land use.

Proposals to amend the Constitution may be initiated by either the President or a majority of the National Assembly.  The National Assembly should decide on the proposed amendments within sixty days of their public announcement.  Passage of an amendment requires at least a two-thirds majority of the entire membership of the National Assembly, and requires assent by a majority of the votes cast (with the additional requirement that at least one-half of eligible voters participate).  One interesting, but serious provision concerning constitution amendments is that "an amendment made to extend the term(s) of the President , or to alter the number of the terms the President may serve, is ineffective for the President who holds the post when the amendment was proposed."  This provision reflects past experience with Presidents who, as discussed above, attempted to prolong their rule through constitutional revision. 

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Information provided by the Korean Embassy


The Judiciary System in Korea

The Constitutional Court

Activities

The Constitutional Court safeguards the Constitution by annulling any unconstitutional law passed by the National Assembly. This is done through a judgement passed by the Constitutional Court upon request of a lower court, or upon request of a party who has filed a Constitutional Complaint whose request for referral was rejected by the lower courts.

The Constitutional Court also validates the legality of impeachment proceedings and judgements of any high-ranking public official, including the President, Prime Minister or a judge, and declares these proceedings legal and binding. Furthermore, the Court may order the dissolution of a political party, upon the request of the Executive, if enough evidence exists to suggest that the party in question has engaged in illegal activities. This authority is assigned to the Constitutional Court with the aim of protecting the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court also safeguards the Constitution by protecting people's fundamental rights. Anyone whose fundamental rights, which are guaranteed by the Constitution, have been infringed upon, by the exercise or omission of the Executive power, may file a petition, for relief or remedy, to the Constitutional Court. Anyone whose consitutional rights have allegedly been aggrieved by a legislative act itself may also resort to the Court by means of a Constitutional Complaint. Furthermore, any party to a civil, criminal, or administrative case, whose motion to have the case referred to the Constitutional Court was rejected by the ordinary court, may file a complaint directly to the Constitutional Court, in order to seek a final judgement. The adoption of the Constitutional Complaint is the most distinctive features of the current constitutional judgement system. By giving the people direct access to the Constitutional Court by means of filing a Constitutional Complaint, this system guarantees civil rights not only in theory but in practice.

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Organizations

The Constitutional Court consists of nine justices who are forty or more years of age and who have had legal careers for fifteen or more years. All justices are appointed by the President of the Republic of Korea. However, the pool of candidates from which the President can choose Constitutional Court justices is selected by both the Judiciary and the National Assembly. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court nominates a number of candidates from which the President must choose three. The rest are chosen out of a pool of candidates nominated by the National Assembly. In this way, all justices that make up the Constitutional Court are selected by the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judiciary.

The president of the Constitutional Court is appointed by the President of the Republic among the justices, with the consent of the National Assembly. Justices make their judgements independently, guided only by the Constitution and their conscience. No justice shall be discharged from office against his or her will unless he or she is impeached or is sentenced to prison. No justice can join a political party or otherwise participate in political activities.

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The Judiciary

Judicial power is vested in the courts, constitutionally an independent branch of the Government. The court system functions on three levels: the Supreme Court, appellate courts, district courts (including branch courts). Besides the three-tier court system; the judiciary also operates a family court, an administrative court and a patent court. The courts judge civil, criminal, administrative, election, and other judicial litigations, and manage and supervise affairs concerning the registration of real estate, census register, deposits, and judicial scriveners.

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Organizations

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest judicial tribunal of the nation. It is located in Seoul and consists of a Chief Justice and thirteen Justices. In the Supreme Court, cases are presided over by either the Grand Bench composed of the justices sitting en banc (the entire membership of the court participates in the decision) or the Petty Benches, each of which is usually composed of four justices.

The Supreme Court deals with appeals against judgments or decisions rendered by the high courts and the appellate divisions of the district courts. The Supreme Court also has exclusive jurisdiction over the validity of a presidential and/or general elections. It is empowered to make a final review of the legality of administrative decrees, regulations or dispositions.

The Supreme Court may establish rules regarding internal regulations, administration of the court, and trial procedures.

The grounds for appeal to the Supreme Court are prescribed. In civil cases, they are limited to constitutional and legal questions pertaining to the judgments of lower courts. In criminal lawsuits, an appeal may be brought in case of a violation of the constitution or the law, the abolition, alteration or excuse of a penalty; a grave error in fact-finding; or extreme impropriety in the sentencing.

To assist the justices in hearing the enormous number of cases, research judges are appointed from among the judges of the high courts. At present, two research judges are assigned to each justice exclusively. There is also a pool of research judges consisting of 20 to 30 judges.

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Appellate Court

An appellate court consists of a presiding judge and usually three associate judges. It hears appeals against verdicts of district or family courts in civil or criminal cases, administrative cases, or special cases designated by law. There are five appellate courts in the country - Seoul, Taegu, Pusan, Kwangju, and TaejCon. They hold their own trials and reach decisions for or against the verdicts of the lower courts. Only appellate courts can dispense justice on all administrative litigations filed by individuals or organizations against any government decision, order, or disposition.

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District Court

District courts which have primary jurisdiction over most cases are set up in Seoul and 12 other major cities, most of which are provincial capitals. The District Court of Seoul is divided into two separate courts; the Seoul Civil District Court and the Seoul Criminal District Court. District court trials usually are conducted by a single judge, but a three-judge panel is mandatory in such serious cases as civil cases in which the value in question exceeds 50 million Won (equivalent to about US$ 37,000), and criminal cases in which the defendant can be sentenced to death, penal servitude or imprisonment of more than one year. A district court can be assisted by one or more branch courts with single judges for the purpose of dealing with a part of district court business.

As of June 1, 1998, there were 42 branch courts and 105 municipal courts. Their purpose is to manage and deal with the affairs of the district courts. Municipal courts, which were created to maximize judicial services to local people, have replaced circuit courts. Municipal court judges preside over small claims, minor offenses and divorce by mutual agreement.

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Family Court

The Family Court is empowered to hear all cases involving matrimonial, juvenile, or other domestic matters. Court sessions are closed to the public to insure the privacy of the individuals concerned. At present, the Family Court is located only in Seoul. In other places, the appropriate district court handles such matters.

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Administrative Court

The Administrative Court, opened in Seoul on March 1, 1998, hears administrative cases only. District courts outside of Seoul perform the functions of the Administrative Court in their respective district.

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Patent Court

The Patent Court, opened in TaejCon on March 1, 1998, reviews decisions made by the Patent Office as an intermediate appellate jurisdiction. The Supreme Court plays a role as the final tribunal of patent disputes. The ordinary district courts, however, still hear infringement cases.

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Courts-martial

The courts-martial are military courts which exercise jurisdiction over offenses committed by members of the Armed Forces and their civilian employees. These offenses include treason, disobedience, desertion, or other crimes as defined in the Military Penal Law. Civilians can come under the jurisdiction of a court-martial if implicated in cases of military espionage, interference with the execution of military duties, or certain other specified offenses.

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Qualification and Appointment

The Chief Justice and justices of the Supreme Court must be 40 years old or over, with more than 15 years of experience as judges, prosecutors or lawyers. Judges other than those of the Supreme Court must pass the Judicial Civil Service Examination and complete the two-year training program at the Judicial Research and Training Institute, as well as serve another two-year as a "probationary judge," or must be a duly qualified prosecutor or lawyer. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the President with the consent of the National Assembly. Other justices are appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Chief Justice. The judges of the lower courts are appointed by the Chief Justice. The term of office of the Chief Justice is six years and he/she cannot be reappointed. Chief Justice must retire from office at the age of 70. The term for other justices is six years and they must be reappointed in accordance with the provisions of law, but must retire from office when they reach the age of 65. All other judges must retire at the age of 63.

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Guarantee of Status

To insure the independence of the Judiciary, the tenure of judges is constitutionally guaranteed. No judge may be dismissed except by impeachment or criminal proceedings. Likewise, no judge can be suspended from office or have his/her salary reduced except through disciplinary action taken by the Judicial Disciplinary Committee.

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Judicial Administration

The Supreme Court is vested with the responsibility of judicial administration. The Chief Justice is in charge of all the court administrative works and he/she may submit a written opinion letter to the National Assembly when he/she deems it necessary to enact or amend laws relating to court affairs. There are several administrative entities, which are as following:

The Supreme Court Justices Council consists of all 14 justices and is presided over the Chief Justice. The council discusses the appointment of lower court judges, the formulation of Supreme Court rules and regulations, requests for budget amendments or provisions, and other important matter.

The Ministry of Court Administration is an instrument established by the Supreme Court which handles the general administrative works of the court. The Chief Justice appoints the Minister from among the Justices. The ministry consists of three Offices (Planning, Judicial Policy Research, Personnel), four bureaus (Litigation, Property and Family Registry, Court Construction, General Affairs) and a Public Relations Office.

The Judicial Research and Training Institute is the only uniform educational institution for the bench and the bar in Korea. It provides a theoretical as well as practical education to legal apprentices who have passed the Judicial Civil Service Examination. The two year program at the institute is required for admission into the legal profession. The institute also provides judges with the opportunity for advanced continuing education and assists their research on legal matters.

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Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office

Under the control of the Ministry of Justice, there is a system of public prosecutor's offices. The prosecutors are empowered to conduct investigations into violations of law and to institute legal actions against suspected law-breakers, directing and supervising the judicial police under their control. As protectors of the public interest, they attend and address court hearings to insure due application of the law and decrees.

The State's highest prosecuting agency is the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office headed by the Prosecutor General. It supervises and controls all subordinate offices: the high prosecutor's offices, district prosecutor's offices, and branch prosecutor's offices. The high and district prosecutor's offices are located in cities where their judicial counterparts sit. All these offices, including the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office, are under the direction of the Minister of Justice. He/she is not, however, authorized to assume control over a prosecutor's disposition of justice, except when authorized by pertinent laws.

The Prosecutor General is appointed by the President among experienced prosecutors, judges, or lawyers who have practiced law for more than 15 years. Other prosecutors are appointed by the Minister of Justice.

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Information provided by the Korean Embassy


Political Parties and the National Election Commission in Korea

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Political Parties

The National Election Commission

Historically political parties were born and developed in conjunction with the democratization and diversification of society. They are an essential ingredient of the modern democratic political system. Performances of political parties in a given country is an important yardstick of measuring the vitality of a democracy. The Constitution of the Republic of Korea, in Article 8, defines the important role and function political parties play in the Republic: "Political parties may be organized freely and multiple parties shall be allowed. The objectives, organization and activities of a political party shall be democratic. Political parties shall have an organization conducive to participating in the process of forming the people's political opinions."

The Constitution also declares that "political parties shall be protected by the government according to the provisions of relevant laws." The most important law enacted by the Constitutional mandate is the Political Party Law. Directly quoting the definition of a political party from the Constitution, the law states that by virtue of being protected in its activities and organizational process, the political parties shall contribute to the development of sound democratic politics. This provision stresses freedom of political activities.

The law further says that a political party is an entity organized by the spontaneous action of the people with a purpose to allow people's political opinions to be expressed. According to the law, the political parties may achieve their objectives by presenting responsible opinions and policies and by supporting certain candidates in public elections for the benefit of the people. Thus, a political party is a private organization that deals with matters of public interest. The law also elaborates on the rules for establishing and maintaining the political parties and requirements for democratic organization and operation. As of August 1998, there were 10 political parties active in Korea. Only four of them had seats in the National Assembly-the Grand National Party (GNP), the National Congress for New Politics (NCNP), the United Liberal Democrats (ULD), and the New Party by the People (NPP).

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Activities of Political Parties

Modern political parties based on democratic principles were first introduced to Korea only after it was liberated from the Japanese colonial government in 1945. Initially, the political parties were nothing but groups of small number of relatives, acquaintances, schoolmates and townsfolk. The Liberal Party, founded in 1951, was the first to establish a nationwide organization. The Democratic Party, the Democratic Republican Party (DRP) and the New Democratic Party (NDP) appeared later, and like the Liberal Party, it also organized local branches around the country.

Korean political parties opposing the government parties were subject to constant persecution by successive military governments which first came into power during the coup d'etat of 1961, led by General Park Chung Hee. For this reason, party politics existed only in name. Typical of the government's abuse was the dissolution of political parties by Park Chung Hee in 1961 and the banning of political activities imposed on party members by the Gen. Chun Doo Hwan Administration in 1980.

Korean political parties have largely been organized around a particular leader instead of a party platform or policies. Since each party is operating around a political boss, political parties were not able to represent all sectors of the society despite their claims to the contrary.

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The 1987 Constitutional amendment was a milestone in the history of Korean democracy in that it reinstated the principle of direct, popular election of the President for the first time in 20 years. Inspired by the long-sought Constitutional amendment, many politically minded people created political parties under a truly democratic system. Buoyed by the democratic process of the 1987 election, people seemed to believe that democracy was here to stay.

In October 1987, Roh Tae Woo of the Democratic Justice Party (DJP) was elected President by gathering 36.6 percent of the votes. His election was attributed to the fact that the opposition camp failed to put up a single candidate in a unified fashion. Other candidates in the election were Kim Young Sam of the Unified Democratic Party (UDP), Kim Dae-jung of the Democratic Party for Peace, Kim Jong-pil of the New Democratic Republican Party (NDRP), and others from splinter parties. The Korean people who had just recovered their political freedom foresaw the possibility of a genuine change of governmental power looming in the not-too-distant future.

In the 13th-term National Assembly elections that were held in April 1988, the ruling DJP managed to win only 125 of the 299 seats. The remaining 71 went to the opposition Democratic Party for Peace, 60 to the UDP, 35 to the NDRP, and eight to independents. For the first time in the history of the Republic, a government party failed to obtain a majority of seats in the Legislature.

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Because of the minority status in the National Assembly, the government had a hard time in pushing its agenda. But the government's difficulties did not last long as the governing DJP merged with the opposition parties UDP and NDRP in January 1990. The giant coalition, comprising two-thirds of the total membership, called itself the Democratic Liberal Party (DLP). Some UDP lawmakers protested the merger and formed the Democratic Party (DP).

In 1991, politicians were moving fast in preparation of the 14th-term National Assembly elections scheduled for January the next year. Faced with the prospect of a showdown with the ruling coalition, the opposition New Democratic Alliance Party headed by Kim Dae-jung merged with the Democratic Party led by Lee Ki-taek. They actively sought the support of various civic groups.

However, the opposition was dealt a devastating defeat by the ruling coalition in the local autonomy-unit elections held in March and June 1995. This was the first time such local elections were held since 1961 when they were abolished by Park Chung Hee.

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In early 1992, Chung Ju-yung, founder of the Hyundai conglomerate and his allies, created the Unified People's Party (UPP), a middle-of-the-road reform party. The UPP lost in the December presidential election, but won 31 seats in the National Assembly election in March of the same year, a decent performance for a party only a few months old. In the 14th-term parliamentary elections, the ruling coalition of DLP ended up winning one seat short from a simple majority. This was a substantial setback for the government party which had boasted a two-thirds majority. The major opposition Democratic Party won in 97 districts. In the December election, Kim Young Sam was elected President by winning 42 percent of the votes.

In May 1995, the United Liberal Democrats (ULD) was organized by Kim Jong-pil who had broken away from the DLP. In the local autonomy elections in June of the same year, the ruling DLP suffered a major defeat. Of the 15 provincial and metropolitan gubernatorial elections, the government party wound up winning only five seats. The opposition took eight and the remaining two went to independents. In the shi, gun and gu district elections held in 230 electoral districts, the government party won only 70 seats, compared with the opposition's 107 seats. Independent candidates took 53 seats. In this election, each of the major parties won in only certain regions, deepening worries about provincialism.

In the 15th-term National Assembly elections of 1996, the NCNP's hopes were shattered when it ended up getting only 79 of the 299 seats. The NCNP had hoped to win a majority based on the excellent performance of the opposition camp in the local elections held just months before, even though it had to break away from the Democratic Party prior to the elections. The ruling New Korea Party (NKP) won 139 seats, the ULD took 50, the Democrats got 15, and the remaining 16 seats went to independents. What worried the opposition camp particularly was that they failed to take a majority of the Seoul and KyConggi-do seats for the first time in the history of parliamentary elections. The ruling NKP took 54 of the 95 Seoul and KyConggi-do seats.

The NCNP was concerned about the results of the election because it had mobilized all its resources to win in the central metropolitan region in preparation for the 1997 presidential election.

As for the ideological variance for Korean political parties, few were progressive or socialist in ideological orientation. The Progressive Party of the 1950s was probably the only one that advocated radical social change based on socialist ideas about class struggle. It was subsequently repressed by the government in power. With the expansion of political freedoms during the 1980's, the People's Party and the Party of the People was established in 1988 and 1990, respectively, but folded soon thereafter due to the lack of support from the general public. In November 1997, the Constructive People's Victory 21 was created, but fizzled out after dismal performances in the 1997 presidential and 1998 local elections.

The year 1997 saw another milestone in the Korean party politics as there was a genuine transfer of power between a ruling and an opposition party for the first time in the 50 year existence of the Republic. In the national election, Kim Dae-jung of the opposition NCNP was elected President by winning 40.3 percent of the votes, 1.6 percent over the ruling GNP's Lee Hoe-chang. President Kim was inaugurated on February 25, 1998.

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Political Party Finance

Organizing and financing a political party requires a great deal of money. To help secure the "Cost of Democracy," the Law Governing Political Funds stipulates that a political party may collect money by means of membership fees, support committee contributions and other subsidies.

At the end of the 1997, the GNP held the majority of National Assembly seats, with 4,198,699 party members. The governing coalition of NCNP and ULD had 845,276 and 1,601,727 members, respectively. The New Party by the People had 108,573 members. All the parties collect membership dues as well as contributions from corporations, associations and individuals. But those amounts fall far short of meeting their overall financial needs.

The huge gaps in the financial structure forced many political parties and big businesses to make illegal deals that ultimately corrupt politics and jeopardize the economy of the whole nation. This vicious cycle of political-business collusion has been a major problem in Korea.

In order to rectify the problem, Article 8 of the Constitution states that "the State may offer subsidies necessary for the operation of political parties in accordance with the provisions of the relevant laws." The subsidies are only given to the parties which meet certain legal requirements.

The amount of subsidies are calculated by multiplying 800 Won by the number of votes the political parties received in the most recent national election. The subsidies add up after each presidential, National Assembly and local elections.

There are two types of subsidies-basic and proportional. The basic subsidies are 50 percent of the total amount, and they are offered to those parties with a negotiation group of 20 or more members in the National Assembly. Those parties with 5-19 members get five percent of the total amount each. Those parties that have less than five Assembly seats, but have received a certain rate of votes in the nationwide local autonomy unit elections, may get two percent of the total amount.

The remainder of the subsidies go to the parties with parliamentary seats proportionate to the number of their seats. The balance, if any, goes to the parties proportionate to the number of votes each has received in the most recent Assembly elections.

Political parties and lawmakers may have a "support committee" that are able to monetary contributions. To operate the support committee, the legislator, the party central committee, provincial, city, or local election districts must register with the National Election Commission.

Individuals and corporations can join these support committees on their own free will, and contribute their own money or the money collected from non-committee members to the parties and candidates of their choice. There is a upper limit to the amount of contribution a support committee can receive a year. In a non-election year, the party central committee can collect a maximum of 20 billion Won, a metropolitan city or provincial committee can take 2 billion Won, and the electoral district, or a National Assembly candidate, can receive up to 300 million Won per year. During a presidential year or other election year, most support committees may receive up to twice the amount of a non-election year's maximum.

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Organization

The National Election Commission (NEC) is an independent council established for fair management of elections and national referenda as well as political party-related affairs. It is a four-level setup composed of 17 central, provincial and metropolitan city offices, 302 city wards or gu, shi and gun offices, and 16,161 voting stations. The term of the commissioner is six years; the commissioner must not join a political party nor participate in political activities. He or she must not be dismissed from the position unless he/she is impeached, or sentenced to prison, or has been subject to other more serious punishments by a court of law.

The commission may conduct its meetings with half or more of its members enrolled and make decisions with the consent of half or more of the members present. The president of the Commission has the right to vote, and has the right to break a tie vote.

The commission is composed of nine members; three of them are appointed by the President of the Republic, three by the National Assembly, and the remaining three, by the Chief Justice. The members elect a chairperson and one standing member. It is customary for the members to elect a Justice of the Supreme Court as a chairman of the commission.

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Duties

The commission manages national and local elections mandated by the Constitution and the Election Rigging Prevention Law as well as other elections entrusted by public entities. They include the following:

- Presidential elections

- National Assembly elections

- Elections of local autonomous district heads (such as metropolitan city mayors, province governors, shi mayors, gu commissioners and gun commissioners.)

- Elections of local autonomous district councils (such as councils of metropolitan cities, provinces, shis, gus and guns.)

- Elections entrusted by public entities.

- Researches on election systems

The commission manages referenda regarding constitutional revision and other important initiatives on international relations, defense, national reunification and other national security issues.

The commission also manages matters regarding the establishment of political parties and their activities, as well as the management of public political funds.

The commission conducts public relations campaign all year round, to firmly establish a tradition of fair elections. In addition to managing constitutionally mandated affairs, the commission holds public events and visits various organizations and schools to give speeches on the importance of elections. It also educates new voters and supports fair election activities sponsored by social and religious groups.

To ensure truly fair elections, the commission focuses its effort not only on the enforcement of fair voting and ballot counting, but also on making sure that election campaigns are carried out lawfully. The commission actively seeks to prevent illegal campaign practices by political parties and candidates. If illegality is suspected, it takes due and prompt investigatory action.

The Election Management Institute of the commission regularly trains its employees at all levels, including civil servants and other elections management and political party workers, on the subject of election procedures, political parties as well as the management and distribution of political funds.

The commission initiates legislation and revision of laws concerning elections, referenda and political parties through the National Assembly when it deems necessary.

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Information provided by the Korean Embassy


Korean Ministries

Currently there are seventeen executive ministries, the heads of which are designated as members of the State Council.  These ministries are responsible for the formulation and implementation of government policies in their respective policy areas.  Ministers are appointed by the President with the recommendation of the Prime Minister.  They have the right to lead and supervise the executive ministries under their management, to deliberate major state affairs, to act on behalf of the President and appear in the National Assembly, and to issue Ministry orders as delegated by Presidential orders.  Ministers are collectively and individually responsible to the President.

Besides the executive ministries, there are seventeen functionally independent agencies and administrations whose scope of activities is relatively narrow and specific.  Each agency/administration is typically headed by Vice-ministerial level administrators (three of them are headed by Assistant-minister level officials) appointed by the President with the recommendation of the Prime Minister.  They are allied with specific ministries as well as the Prime Minister, and function under the supervision of the affiliated ministers.  The seventeen agencies/administrations are: the Office of National Budget, the National Tax Administration, the Korea Customs Office, the National Statistical Office, the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office, the Military Manpower Administration, the National Police Agency, the Korea Meteorological Administration, the Office of Cultural Properties, the Rural Development Administration, the Forestry Administration, the Small and Medium Business Administration, the Korean Industrial Property Office, the Korea Food and Drug Administration, the National Railroad Administration, the Supply Administration, and the National Maritime Police Agency.

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Ministry of Finance and Economy

The Ministry of Finance and Economy is in charge of policies concerning the formation and execution of government budgets, mobilization of resources, investment, technical development, and economic cooperation with foreign countries and international organizations. This ministry is also responsible for the central government's financial affairs, including financial bills, currency, national bonds, accounts, taxation, customs, foreign exchange, and control of state-owned and vested properties. The Minister of Finance and Economy is responsible for coordinating all transactions between ministries related to economy and finance.

The Ministry undertakes these responsibilities through its Office of Tax and Customs (under which are three bureau-level officers: Internal Revenue and Tax Affairs; Property, Consumption and International Tax Affairs; and Customs and Tariffs) as well as through the Bureaus of Economic Policy, Treasury, Financial Policy, International Finance, Economic Cooperation, and Welfare and Price Policy. The Ministry's jurisdiction extends over the National Tax College and National Tax Tribunal. Finally, the Ministry controls and supervises five independent agencies: Office of National Budget, National Tax Administration, Korea Customs Office, and National Statistical Office.

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Ministry of Unification

The Ministry of Unification undertakes policy planning, information analysis, public education and public information on issues concerning national unification. These responsibilities are carried out by the Unification Policy Office, the Information Analysis Office, the Inter-Korean Interchange and Cooperation Bureau, and the Humanitarian Affairs Bureau. It also runs the Institute of Political Education for National Unification, the Office of South-North Dialogue, and the Secretariat Office of Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification.

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has jurisdiction over all matters concerning diplomacy, trade and treaties with foreign countries. It formulates and implements diplomatic policies; formulates, implements, integrates and coordinates diplomatic policies related to trade, trade talks and international economy; provides overseas information; conducts surveys of international environs; and handles matters concerning treaties and other international agreements, cultural cooperation, immigration, and protection and assistance to Korean nationals abroad. The Ministry is responsible for Korean missions to other countries which are headed by ambassadors, consul-generals or consuls, and maintains relations with the diplomatic and consular representatives of foreign nations in Korea. The Ministry is also responsible for matters concerning economic and financial relations with other countries.

The Ministry carries out these functions through the Office of Policy Planning; and the Bureaus of Asian and Pacific Affairs, North American Affairs, Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, European Affairs, Middle East and African Affairs, Treaties, International Economic Affairs, Cultural Cooperation, and Overseas Residents and Consular Affairs; and three trade-related bureaus (Trade Promotion, Bilateral Trade, Multilateral Trade) which are supervised by the recently established Office of Minister of State for Trade. The Minister of State for Trade serves as the trade representative under the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Ministry also controls and supervises the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, the Korea International Coopera-tion Agency, the Korea Foundation, and the Overseas Koreans Foundation.

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Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the prosecution, probation and security observation, penal administration, protection of juveniles, rehabilitation, control of crossborder exit/entry, protection of human rights, naturalization, notary, and other legal affairs of government. It is further responsible for the prison system, immigration, and the supervision of prosecutors. All criminal justice and prison systems are national functions.

The policies and programs of Justice Ministry are carried out through the Office of Legal Affairs, the Prosecution Bureau, the Immigration Bureau, the Correction Bureau, and the Social Protection & Rehabilitation Bureau. The Ministry controls and supervises the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office.

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Ministry of National Defense

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) deals with policies, rules and orders related to national defense, and all other military affairs. The Armed Forces - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Reserve Forces - are placed under the control of this ministry.

The MND undertakes its functions through Deputy Ministers for Policy, Human Resources, and Aquisition and Technology. These have 17 offices and bureaus as sub-institutions. They are: the Troop Information and Public Affairs Office, the Legal Affairs Management Offices, the Inspector General, the Office of Organization and Manpower Management, the Health and Environment Offiice, the Arms Control Office, the Planning and Coordination Office, the Force Improvement Programming Office, the Project Coordination Office, the Aquisition and Development Office, the Policy and Planning Bureau, the Personnel and Welfare Bureau, the Mobilization Bureau, the Budget and Finance Bureau, the Logistics Bureau, the Installations Bureau, and the Information Systems Bureau.

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Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs

The Ministry of Government Administ-ration and Home Affairs (which represents the merging of two differnt organization, the Ministry of Government Administration and the Ministry of Home Affairs) undertakes virtually all service and management functions related to the operation of central and local governments.

Its responsibilities are carried out through the Bureaus of Protocol and State Council, Personnel, Administrative Management, Local Autonomy Support, Local Finance and Economy, and Local Tax. Under the Headquarters of Civil Defense and Disaster Management are three additional bureaus: Civil Defense and Disaster Management, Disaster Prevention and Preparedness, and Fire Administration.

The Ministry has under its jurisdiction an array of institutions, including the Central Officials Training Institute, the Appeals Commission, the Government Buildings Supply and Management Service, the Government Archives and Records Service, the Government Computer Center, the Local Administration Training Institute, the National Institute for Disaster Prevention, the National Fire Service Academy, the National Institute of Scientific Investigation, National 119 Rescue Services, and Five Provinces of Northern Korea. The National Police Agency is also under the direction and supervision of this ministry.

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Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education is responsible for issues and concerns pertaining to both formal and non-formal education. The Ministry consists of two offices, the Office of Planning and Management, and the School Policy Offices, and four bureaus, the Life-long Education Bureau, the Academic Research Policy Bureau, the Education Environment Improvement Bureau and the Cyber Education Bureau. These bureaus, in working in coordination with one another, fulfill their various duties and wide-ranging tasks.

The Ministry also oversees the National History Compilation Committee, the National Institute for International Education Development, the National Institute for Training of Educational Administrators, the Appeal Commission for Teachers, the Korean Institute for Special Education, and the National Academy of Sciences.

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Ministry of Science and Technology

The Ministry of Science and Technolo-gy is responsible for overseeing national S & T policy, administering affairs related to S & T policy-making, and coordinating national R & D programs. It carries out these tasks through the Planning & Management Office, the R & D Policy Office, and Atomic Energy Office, the S & T Policy Bureau, the Basic Science & Manpower Bureau, and the S & T Cooperation Bureau. This ministry also operates the National Science Museum and supervises the Meteorological Administration.

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Ministry of Culture and Tourism

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies concerning culture, arts, broadcasting management, publications, printed matter, sports, youth, overseas cultural information services, and tourism. These functions are undertaken by the Office of Religious Affairs; and the Bureaus of Cultural Policy, Arts, Culture Industry, Tourism, Sports, and Youth.

This ministry operates, controls and supervises the largest number of agencies of all the ministries. This list includes the Office of Cultural Properties, the Korean National University of Arts, the National Academy of Arts, the National Museums, the National Academy of Korean Language, the National Library, the National Theater, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts, the National Film Production Center, the Government Publishing Office and the National Folk Museum. It also supervises the Korean Overseas Culture and Information Service.

In addition, the Ministry is in charge of supporting and guiding the following specialized groups. In the field of art and culture, these include the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation, the Seoul Arts Center, the Korean Motion Picture Promotion Corporation, and the Independence Hall. In the field of sports, the Ministry supports the Korea Sports Council, the Korean Olympic Committee, and the Seoul Olympic Sports Foundation. Finally, in the field of youth and well-being, the Ministry oversees the Korea Institute for Youth Development.

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Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for policies concerning agricultural industry, rural development, food, farmland, irrigation, marketing of agricultural products, and livestock. The Ministry is also responsible for veterinary matters, land registration and agrarian rights.

Included in the Ministry are: the Bureaus of Agricultural Policy, Food Grain Policy, International Agriculture, Rural Development, Marketing Policy, Agricultural Production and Horticulture, and Livestock, and the Agricultural Information and Statistics Office. The Ministry operates the National Agricultural Product Inspection Service, the National Veterinary Research Service, and the National Plant Inspection Service. The Ministry also controls and supervises the Rural Development Administration and the Forestry Administra-tion.

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Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy is responsible for commerce, foreign trade, trade promotion, manufacturing industry, industrial zones, energy, underground resources, electricity, fuel, and thermal resource management. It also handles patents and standards. In addition, the Ministry is in charge of trademarks, brands, cases of unfair competition, and import and export regulations.

These functions are carried out through the Office of Trade Policy (with two bureau-level Offices of Trade Policy, and Inter-national Trade Promotion); the Office of Energy and Resources Policy (with four bureau-level Officers of Energy and Resources Policy, Energy Efficiency and Conservation, Petroleum and Gas Policy, and Electric Power Policy) as well as the Bureaus of Industrial Policy, Technology Policy, Capital Goods Industries, and Electronics, Textile and Chemical Industries.

The Ministry operates the Mine Registration Office, the Mine Safety Office, and the Free Export Zone Management Office. The Korean Trade Commission, the Small and Medium Business Administration, and the Korean Industrial Property Office are all under the control and supervision of the Ministry.

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Ministry of Information and Communications

The Ministry of Information and Communications handles all matters concerning information and communications, including informatization, radio wave control, postal service, postal cheque transfers and exchange, and postal banking and insurance.

It carries out these functions through the Planning & Management Office, the Information & Communications Policy Office, the Information Planning Office, the Information & Communications Promotion Bureau, the Radio & Broadcasting Bureau, the Post Bureau, the Postal Savings, the Insurance & Finance Bureau, and the International Cooperation Office.

The Ministry also operates the Information & Communications Officials Training Institute, the Radio Research Laboratory, the Electronic Data Management Center, the Central Radio Monitoring Office, the Regional Communications Office, and the Secretariat of the Korea Communications Commission.

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Ministry of Health and Welfare

The Ministry of Health and Welfare deals with all matters related to public health, epidemiology, public hygiene and sanitation, medical and pharmaceutical policies, public assistance, self-support care, support for women, children and disabled persons, and all other social welfare and human services programs.

The Ministry undertakes these functions through the Department of Social Welfare Policy (with three Director-Generals of Social Welfare, Family Welfare, and Disabled Persons Welfare); and the Bureaus of Health Policy, Health Promotion, Health Resource Management, and Pension and Health Insurance.

This ministry operates the National Medical Center, the National Institute of Health, the National Institute of Social Welfare Training, the National Mental Hospital, the National Sorokto Hospital, the National Rehabilitation Center, the National Tuberculosis Hospital, and the Central Epidemic Inspection Service. It also controls and supervises the Korea Food and Drug Administration.

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Ministry of Environment

The Ministry of Environment is in charge of policies and programs for improving living environments, preserving natural eco-systems, reducing and recycling wastes, safely managing hazardous substances, and promoting environmental technologies, environmental education and public awareness, of environmental issues, and international environmental cooperation.

The Ministry undertakes these functions through the Office of Environmental Policy (with a bureau-level Office of International Cooperation); through the Bureaus of Nature Conservation, Air Quality Management, Water Quality Management, Water Supply and Sewage Treatment, Waste Management and Recycling; and through Regional Environmental Management Offices.

The Ministry supervises the Central Environmental Disputes Coordination Commission, the National Institute of Environmental Research, the Environmental Management Corporation, and the Korean Resources Recovery and Reutilization Corporation.

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Ministry of Labor

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for labor-related issues such as labor standards, industrial relations, industrial safety and health, employment policy and employment insurance, vocational training, and so on.

It carries out these functions through the Office of Employment Policy (with three Bureau-level Offices for Employment Policy Coordination, Employment Insurance, and Human Resources Development); and the Bureaus of Labor Policy, Labor Standards, Industrial Safety and Health, and Working Women. Under its direct control are: the Labor Training Institute, the Central Employment Information Office, and the Regional Administrations. Other related institutions are the Central Labor Relations Commission (and seven Local Labor Relations Commissions), the Minimum Wage Council, and the Industrial Accident Deliberation Committee.

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Ministry of Construction and Transportation

The Ministry of Construction and Transportation is responsible for the formulation of a national comprehensive land development plan and the coordination of a national construction plan. Also within the Ministry's gambit are policies and programs concerning conservation, utilization, development and renovation of land and water resources, construction of cities, roads, and houses, management of rivers. The Ministry also controls policies and programs concerning land transportation and air transportation.

These functions are undertaken through the Offices of Construction Affairs and Transport Policy; the Bureaus of National Development Planning, Land, Housing and Urban Affairs, Surface Transportation, and Civil Aviation; and through the Corps of the Highspeed Rail Construction Project, the Corps of the New International Airport Construction Project, and the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Corps.

The Ministry oversees the National Geography Institute, the National Construc-tion Research Institute, the Central Equipment Management Office, the Regional Construction and Management Office, the Regional Aviation Office, the Cheju Development and the Construction Office, the Flood Control Office, the Air Traffic Control Center, and the Central Land Tribunal. It also supervises the National Railroads Administration.

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Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, established in 1996, is the youngest ministry. It has jurisdiction over fisheries, marine transportation, construction and operation of harbors, marine research, management of vessels and seamen, conservation of marine environment, marine science and technology, marine resources, and marine accidents.

Its constituent bureaus are: Marine Policy, Maritime Transport and Seafarers, Port Policy, Port Construction, Fisheries Policy and Fishery Promotion.

Under its jurisdiction, the Ministry runs the National Fisheries Promotion Institute, the National Marine Research Institute, the National Marine Product Inspection Service, the Regional Maritime and Fisheries Administration, and the Central and Regional Marine Accident Courts. It also supervises the National Maritime Police Agency.

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Information provided by the Korean Embassy


The President of Korea

Since the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, Korea has maintained a presidential system (except for a brief period between 1960-1961 when a parliamentary system was in place).  The President is the head of state and represents the state to foreign states.  The President is also the head of the executive branch, and the commander in chief of the armed forces.  in case of Presidential death or disability, the Prime Minister - or, if necessary, members of the State Council - will temporarily act as the President according to an order of succession provided by law.

The President is elected for a single five-year term by popular vote through universal, equal, direct, secret balloting. This single-term limitation reflects a reaction to past experiences from the 1950s through the 1970s, during which presidents, once in power, would prolong their terms in office for extended periods.

The power and duties of the President are defined in the following seven areas. First the President, as head of state, symbolizes and represents the whole nation in both the governmental system and foreign relations.  He receives foreign diplomats, awards decorations and other honors, and performs ceremonial and pardoning functions. He has the duty to safeguard the independence, territorial integrity, and continuity of the state, as well as to protect the Constitution.  In addition, he is entrusted with the unique duty to pursue the peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula.

Second, the President, in his capacity as chief executive, enforces all laws passed by the legislature and issues orders and decrees for the enforcement of these laws.  The President has the full power to direct the State Council and oversee a varying number of advisory organs and executive agencies.  He is authorized to appoint public officials including the Prime Minister and heads of executive agencies.

Third, the President, in his capacity to as commander in chief of the armed forces, has extensive authority over military policy, including the power to declare war.

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Fourth, the President, under the current political system, is customarily leader of his political part.  He appoints key positions in the party.  He frequently consults with his party in appointing top-level personnel for the executive branch.

Fifth, the President is chief policy maker and chief lawmaker.  He may propose legislative bills to the National Assembly or express his views to the legislators in person or in writing.  The President cannot dissolve the National Assembly; rather, it is the National Assembly that may hold the President accountable under the Constitution by means of the impeachment process.

Sixth, the President is vested with extensive emergency powers.  In case of internal turmoil, external menace, natural disaster or severe financial or economic crisis, the President can take emergency financial and economic actions or issue orders that have the effect of law.  The President can exercise these powers only when there in insufficient time to convene the National Assembly, and the actions or orders are absolutely essential to maintaining national security or public order.  The President must subsequently notify, and obtain the concurrence of, the National Assembly.  If he is unsuccessful in doing so, the measures will be nullified.

Seventh, and finally, the President is also empowered to declare a state of martial law in accordance with the provisions of the law in time of war, armed struggle, or similar national emergency.  The exercise of such emergency power is, however, subject to ex post facto approval of the National Assembly. 

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Information provided by the Korean Embassy


The Prime Minister of Korea

Unlike the Prime Minister under a parliamentary system, where he/she is the chief executive, the Prime Minister of Korea is the principal executive assistant to the President.  It is within this capacity (under the direction of the President) that the Prime Minister supervises the executive ministries.  The Prime Minister is appointed by the President.  There are no established rules, written or customary, as to whom the President may appoint to the post.  The only obligation is to obtain the approval of the National Assembly before the appointment. 

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Korea's State Council

If often takes a group consensus to resolve policy issues in a balanced, well-reasoned way.  A mechanism to meet this need in the executive branch of the Korean government is the State Council.  Similar to a cabinet meeting, the State Council, consisting of fifteen to thirty members, is the top level collective deliberative body, with the President serving as chairman and the Prime Minister serving as vice-chairman.  

The Council reviews important government policies before the President makes final decisions.  The present State Council is composed of the President, the Prime Minister and the heads of the seventeen executive ministries and provides a forum for deliberation on major government policies and advises the President accordingly.  Constitutionally speaking, the Council is a consultative and reviewing body, and not a decision-making body.

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The Korean National Assembly

Organizations

DSC02160 copy.JPG (233589 bytes)Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly, a unicameral body. The organizational components of the National Assembly are the individual members, the presiding officers, the plenary, the committees, the negotiation groups, and the administrative organs for legislative assistance.

The Assembly is composed of 299 members, 253 elected from single-member electoral districts and 46 shared by their parties in proportional representation. All members serve a four-year term.

To be eligible for election, a candidate must be at least 25 years of age. One candidate from each electoral district is chosen by a plurality of votes. Unless convicted of a crime, a member cannot be apprehended or detained without the consent of the National Assembly. A member is also exempt from liability for speech or voting performed in relation to his/her duties in the National Assembly.

The presiding officers, the Speaker and two Vice speakers are elected to two-year terms through voting in the plenary with the approval of the registered members. The Speaker represents the National Assembly, presides over the parliamentary proceedings, maintains order in the house, and oversees its administration. In the Speaker's absence, a Vice speaker performs the duties.

The Plenary is the highest decision-making body of the National Assembly, consisting of all members. The plenary deliberation of a bill usually begins with a report from the relevant committee, followed by question and answer, debate, and voting. The Plenary is often addressed by the President of the Republic. It also hears from the leaders of negotiation groups on behalf of their respective political parties, and carries out interpellation, during which members address questions to, and receives answers, from cabinet members regarding the national administration. As of May 1998, the 15th National Assembly consisted of 150 seats for the Grand National Party, 84 seats for the National Congress for New Politics and 48 seats for the United Liberal Democrats.

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Committees

Committees are established for preliminary deliberation of matters that require the National Assembly's decision. A standing committee deliberates bills and petitions under its jurisdiction and performs other duties as defined by law. A special committee is established as the need arises for the Assembly's attention on particular matters.

The Assembly is divided into 16 standing committees with the following functional designations: House Steering Committee; Legislation and Judiciary; National Policy; Finance and Economy; Unification, Foreign Affairs and Trade; National Defense; Government Administration and Local Autonomy; Education; Science, Technology, Information and Telecommunications; Culture and Tourism; Agriculture, Forestry, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries; Commerce, Industry and Energy; Health and Welfare; Environment and Labor; Construction and Transportation; and Intelligence. Members serve for two years. The committee chairman is authorized to control the proceedings, maintain order, and represent the committee. Bills and petitions are referred to the standing committees for examination. The committees constitute the chief forum for reconciling differences between ruling and opposition parties.

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Meetings

Two types of legislative sessions are provided, regular and extraordinary. A regular session is convened once every year in accordance with the provisions of the law. Extraordinary sessions may be convened upon the request of the President or a quarter or more of the members of the Assembly. The period of a regular session is limited to 100 days, that of an extraordinary session, to 30 days.

If the President requests the convening of an extraordinary session, he must clearly specify the period of the session and the reasons for the request. During an extraordinary session convened at the call of the President, only bills submitted by the President will be deliberated within the stipulated period. Except as otherwise provided in the Constitution or law, the attendance of more than one half of the Assembly members duly elected and seated, and the concurrent vote of more than one half of the Assembly members present, are necessary to make decisions of the National Assembly binding. In case of a tie vote, the matter is considered to be rejected by the National Assembly. Legislative sessions are open to the public, but this rule can be waived with the approval of more than one half of the members present or when the Speaker deems it necessary to do so in the interest of national security.

The plenary voting takes the form of standing, open, electronic, roll call, or secret balloting. The Assembly holds public hearings to gather expert opinion on important matters or bills requiring professional knowledge. On matters of grave national concern or while auditing or investigating the government, the National Assembly may also hold investigative hearings to get testimonies and evidence from witnesses, experts, and informants.

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Negotiation Groups

Under the present National Assembly Act, each political group having 20 or more assemblymen may form a negotiating group which acts as a unit in interparty negotiations within the Assembly. Assemblymen without party affiliation can form separate negotiations groups if their number is 20 or more. Each negotiating group names floor leader and whip, who are responsible for negotiating with other groups. The floor leaders meet to discuss matters relating to the operation of the Assembly, meeting schedules, and debating orders of the items on agendas for plenary sessions and committee meetings.

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Powers and Activities

The National Assembly deliberates bills, including legislative bills, the government's budget bill, and proposals for ratification of international treaties. It also carries out inspection and audit of the administration, as well as engages in interparliamentary activities.

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Deliberation of Bills and Foreign Policy

A bill may be introduced by an assemblyman with the concurrence of 20 or more Assembly members, or by the administration. When a bill is proposed or submitted, the Speaker refers it to the pertinent committee for consideration. For extensive examination, a committee may establish subcommittees under its authority. With the approval of the Speaker, a committee may hold public hearings to examine budget bills, and other important bills or matters requiring professional knowledge, and solicit opinions from interested persons or experts.

Once a bill is acted upon, the committee's actions are reported to the Assembly floor. A bill voted down may not be referred to a plenary meeting unless the speaker requests that it be dealt with at a plenary session. On the floor, the bill voted upon may be amended, rejected, approved, or sent back to the committee. Each bill passed by the Assembly is sent to the Executive branch and the President must ratify it within 15 days; he may also veto it and provide an explanatory statement to the legislature for reconsideration. The Assembly can, however, override a Presidential veto with the attendance of more than one half of the membership and with a two-thirds majority vote of the members present. The bill in question then becomes law.

The Assembly has the right of consent to the ratification of treaties pertaining to mutual assistance or mutual security, treaties concerning international organizations, treaties of commerce, fisheries and peace, treaties which cause a financial obligation to the state or people, treaties concerning the status of foreign armed forces on Korean territory, and treaties related to legislative matters. The Assembly also has the right to approve a declaration of war, the dispatch of armed forces abroad, or the stationing of alien forces within the country. It also approves emergency orders and general amnesty.

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Audit and Inspection of Fiscal administration

The National Assembly deliberates and finalizes the government's budget bill. The Executive branch must formulate the budget bill for each fiscal year and submit it to the National Assembly at least 90 days before the beginning of a new fiscal year. The Assembly is required to decide upon the budget bill at least 30 days before the beginning of a new fiscal year. Issuance of national bonds and entering into contracts chargeable to the national treasury other than those authorized in the budget require the prior approval of the Assembly. The Assembly also screens the government's account, which is submitted 120 days before the start of the new fiscal year. Its fiscal power extends to laws concerning taxation, the items and rates of which must be fixed by law.

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Power Regarding National Administration

The Assembly inspects the affairs of state or investigates the specific matters of state affairs. When requested by the Assembly or its committees, the Prime Minister, State Council members, and representatives of the Executive branch must appear before the Assembly and answer questions. The Legislature has the power to adopt a motion recommending to the President the dismissal of the Prime Minister or any member of the State Council. A motion for removal of Executive officials may be introduced by one third or more members of the Assembly, and passed with the concurrence of more than one half of the members of the Assembly.

The Assembly has the power to impeach the President, the Prime Minister, members of the State Council, heads of executive ministries, members of the Constitutional Court, judges, members of the National Election Commission, members of the Board of Audit and Inspection or any other public officials designated by law, on the grounds of violating the Constitution, or any other law, in the performance of their duties.

A motion for impeachment must be proposed by one third or more of the membership of the Assembly. The vote of a majority of the Assembly is necessary to carry out an impeachment motion. A motion of impeachment against the President must be proposed by a majority of the members of the Assembly. A person against whom impeachment proceedings have been instituted is suspended from exercising power until the end of the impeachment proceedings. The effect of impeachment is limited to dismissal from public position. However, this does not exempt the impeached person from civil or criminal liability.

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Interparliamentary Activities

The National Assembly takes part in various interparliamentary organizations and meetings. It has been a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), since 1964, and has hosted the 70th Inter-Parliamentary Conference in 1983 and the 97th Conference in 1997.

The Assembly was an inaugural member when the Asia-Pacific Parliamentarians Union (APPU) was founded in 1965. It has hosted six meetings of the organization. It also belongs to the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF) and, in 1998, held the 8th Annual Meeting of the Forum. Since 1979, the Assembly has taken part as both an observer in the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO) and a dialogue partner, since 1990. To promote exchanges and cooperation with its foreign counterparts, the Assembly has established 65 parliamentary friendship associations.

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The Korean Civil Service System

The Korean civil service is based on a grade system which reflects a strong tradition of seniority. Position assignments are made strictly according to grade, and remuneration is based on grade and length of service. The civil service is also characteristically a closed system: recruitment from outside is allowed only at certain grade levels, with age limitations imposed in favor of the young. Vacant positions, except at the lowest grade level, are filled mostly by promotions based on seniority. Korean civil servants, under provisions of the Civil Service Law, are servants of the people. They are required to be kind, fair and sincere.


Size

As of May 31, 1998, the Korean civil service was comprised of 933,384 individuals employed by both central and local governments in various job areas and grade levels. Of this number, 915,750 work for the executive branch (559,081 at the central government level, including 286,000 teachers, 91,500 police force and fire fighters, and 356,669 civil servants working at the local level). An additional 3,346 persons work for the legislature (12,078 for the judiciary, and 2,210 for the Constitutional Court and the National Election Commission). The ratio of civil servants to the nation's population is roughly 1 to 49.

The May 31, 1998 figure for the civil service size reflects an increase of 635 over one year period. The civil service sector has grown rapidly. Civil servants numbered 253,186 in 1962, 417,348 in 1970, 596,431 in 1980, 818,121 in 1990, and reached a peak of 936,689 in February 1998, when the current government of President Kim Dae-jung was inaugurated. The new administration soon began taking measures to reduce its size. The downsizing efforts of the current government resulted in a decrease of 3,305 employees for the three-month period between February 1998 and May 1998.


Classification

Civil servants are broadly classified into two groups: "career" civil servants and "special career" (i.e. non-career) civil servants. The career civil servants constitute an absolute majority, as they include all the groups categorized as: general services personnel (those in engineering, research, and general administrative jobs); special services personnel (judges, prosecutors, diplomatic, police, fire-fighting, educational, and military personnel, civilian employees in the military, employees of the national intelligence service, and other personnel classified as special services by other laws); and technical services personnel (those in various technical and clerical services). The special career civil servants include: politically determined personnel (elected officials of all kinds, officials requiring consent by the National Assembly before appointment, and high ranking political appointees usually at the vice-ministerial level or above); specially designated services personnel (other political appointees and those in positions designated as requiring special talents or skills); contract-based personnel (experts employed through fixed-period contracts); and manual workers.

Classification of career civil servants, other than by area of service as indicated above, is based on grades. There are nine grades, with grade 1 being the highest (assistant minister level) and 9 the lowest. This grade system applies fully to the engineering and administrative job groups. Other job groups, although not so well suited for this grade system, widely use so-called "grade-equivalency" to define one's status relative to those in the administrative job group. For instance, the principals of public schools, the chiefs of police stations, researchers who are the heads of divisions in research agencies-all are regarded as being equivalent to a grade 4 official in the administrative group (a division chief in a central government agency). Qualification of every government position is specified strictly in terms of the title. A bureau chief, for instance, should be an administrative associate executive manager (grade 3) or an administrative executive manager (grade 2); a division chief should be an administrative senior manager, or a chemical engineering senior manager (grade 4), or an administrative associate executive manager (grade 3), and so forth. It is in this manner that position assignments are strictly grade-based.


Recruitments

New outside recruitments for career service are made at the 9th, 7th, and 5th grade levels. Manpower vacancies at the 9th grade are met by new recruitments, while vacancies at the 7th and 5th grades are filled in large part by promotions and, to a lesser extent, through new recruitments. New recruitments are made through competitive written examinations. These new recruitments are intended to infuse fresh, young blood into the civil service system.

Apart from this limited scope for new recruitments and a recently introduced expert recruitment system (in which a limited number of positions are designated for contract-based appointments from both inside and outside the civil service sector), vacant positions are filled by promotions. Grade promotions are made either by competitive examination or by reviews among candidates. To be a candidate for promotion, one should first meet the minimum grade-specific length-of-service requirements, and then climb up through the list of candidates until he/she reaches the top range. In climbing up the list, the results of performance evaluation and training matter to some extent, but seniority is the key. It is in this sense that promotions are mainly seniority-based.


Remuneration

Pay for public servants is a function of grade and length of career. Those at the same grade with the same length of career receive the same amount of pay, regardless of job group, education or any other job-related abilities. The pay system consists of a basic salary that makes up about 45 percent of total pay, and an array of special compensations in the form of bonuses and allowances. Everyone gets a within-the-grade step increase once a year.


Current Government Reform Efforts

Faced with growing needs for a clean, democratic, decentralized, and competitive government to help society cope effectively with increasing international competition, the Korean government over the last several years has taken various steps to reform its traditional structure and methods of operation. Under pressures associated with an unprecedented economic crisis which began in late 1997, the government is now facing an even greater, and more urgent need to reform itself into a cleaner, more efficient organization.

The current government started by reducing the number of executive ministries from 23 to 17 when it was launched in February 1998, and is now working on a wide range of programs to drastically restructure the entire public sector. Included in the government reform programs are: the downsizing of the public sector, including central and local governments, public enterprises and other government-supported organizations, the introduction of competition into the civil service through the use of performance-based pay and merit-based promotions; the substantial increase of contract-based appointments of experts; the introduction of incentives for curbing government spending; the reduction of government bureaucracy and regulations; and the downsizing of the central government through continued decentralization.


Local Government

Local governments, according to Article 117 of the Constitution, "shall deal with matters pertaining to the well-being of local residents, shall manage properties, and may establish their own rules and regulations regarding local autonomy as delegated by national laws and decrees." (It should be noted that, unless otherwise specificied, "local government" here refers broadly to sub-national governments at the provincial as well as municipal levels.) This constitutional provision, however, remained largely unfulfilled until July 1995, when the nation witnessed, for the first time in more than thirty years, the inauguration of popularly elected governors and mayors for provincial and local governments. Until then (except for a period of less than one year just before the military coup d'etat of 1961 when a parliamentary system was in place) local governments were no more than local administrative districts of the central government. The heads of local governments (in effect, simply administrative authorities) were appointed by the central government, and their capacity for autonomous decision-making was virtually nonexistent.

Highly centralized governments have been a strong tradition in Korea, extending back more than six hundred years to the establishment of the ChosCon Dynasty (1392-1910). Thus, even with the advent of decentralization and popularly-elected local governments, a long road lies ahead before achieving local autonomy to a degree and extent practiced today in advanced societies.

The second comprehensive local elections was held on June 4, 1998, three years after the first elections in 1995. Beginning with the 1998 elections, local elections will take place every four years.

The functions of the elected local government CEOs, according to law, include: any functions delegated by the central government; management of public properties and facilities; assessment and collection of local taxes and fees; provision of services and goods to residents; and management of other administrative affairs. Each of the local governments has a Board of Education for handling education and cultural matters within its jurisdictions. Local councils are also authorized to inspect and audit local governments.


Administrative system

Currently, there are 16 provincial-level governments, and 235 lower-level local governments (hereafter, municipal governments), including 72 shi (city) governments, 94 gun (county) governments, and 69 gu (borough) governments within the provincial-level metropolitan cities. Provincial governments, although they have to some extent, their own functions, basically serve as an intermediary between the central and municipal governments. Thus, their administrative systems resemble smaller versions of the central government's system. In fact, administrative units generally represent one-to-one matches with the central government's ministries and agencies, such that policies and programs directed by a specific central agency can be handled (received, conveyed to the municipalities, and reported back from the municipalities to the central agency) by a corresponding unit in the provincial government. The administrative systems within municipal governments are, for similar reasons, not dissimilar to those of the provincial governments. Thus, the administrative systems of all levels of governments, even those of the non-autonomous administrative districts at still lower levels beneath municipal governments, can be characterized in two words: uniform and comprehensive.

Municipal governments deliver services to the residents through an administrative district system. This system consists of what are called Cup and myCon in the gun government or less urbanized areas in the shi government, and dong in the gu government or urbanized areas in the shi government. Each municipal government has several of these districts which serve as field offices for handling service needs of their constituents (their number ranging from about 5,000 to 20,000 residents depending on the size of jurisdiction areas and population density). District offices are engaged mainly in routine and simple administrative and social service functions. Unusual and complex matters are dealt with directly by the municipal governments. Some essential functions, like public safety, road signs, fire protection, public schools, prosecution, and correction, are handled directly by central or provincial governments through their own field offices; and some other functions like public health and extension services are handled directly by the municipal government through separate delivery systems.

Local governments account for 32 percent of the total government employment, with 356,669 employees as of May 31, 1998, in both provincial and municipal governments they also account for 36 percent of total government expenditures. Their personnel and budgets are strictly controlled by the central government, with the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs being the primary supervising and controlling agency. Personnel systems, including classification, recruitment, promotion, and remuneration, are all the same as those of the central government. This is because every policy determined by the central government applies uniformly nationwide.


Intergovernmental Relations

Local governments depend heavily on the central government for decisions and funding for their roles and functions, organization and personnel, and budgets. Their main function is to implement centrally determined policies and programs as directed and guided by central government ministries and agencies. Local governments do not have their own judicial, prosecution, police, or education systems. These systems belong to, and are operated exclusively by, the central government.

On the organization and personnel side, deputy CEOs are, by law, dispatched by the central government (by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, to be more specific). It is these deputies that hold the authority to control all administrative matters of local governments. Any major changes in organization or manpower structure are subject to approval by the higher level of government, meaning the central government must approve changes in the provincial government, and the provincial government must approve changes in the municipal government. All policies governing personnel, including recruitment, promotion, performance evaluation, work conditions, and remuneration, are centrally established in a uniform fashion such that no variation may exist.

Financially, local governments rely so heavily on the central government that, if funding were withheld, the majority of them would cease operations within a month or two after commencing a new budget year. This is owing to several reasons, including a lack of balance in the distribution of revenue sources between the central and local governments and more fundamentally, a poor tax base in many of the local governments.


Reform Efforts

Local governments will soon be a subject of major reforms in their organization, personnel, and modes of operation. Reform measures, to be initiated by the central government, will likely include: the downsizing of organizations, not only internal and external administrative units, but also local public enterprises, and other organizations financially supported by the local government, as well as overseas offices; manpower reduction and restructuring, and the introduction of business-like management systems.

According to a reform plan drafted by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, the municipal governments' administrative district offices (Cup, myCon, and dong) will be substantially reduced in number and converted into social service centers; an electronic resident registration card system will soon be introduced, replacing the current paper-based document systems; the management of government-operated sewage treatment plants, cultural centers, and sports facilities will be contracted out to the private sector; and a substantial proportion of the work performed by unskilled administrative and clerical support personnel, manual laborers, security guards, garbage collectors, street sweepers, and road repair workers will be reduced or contracted out. All these measures will result in an estimated reduction of 87,000 employees, or 30 percent of all local government manpower nationwide. In addition, local public enterprises will also be forced to reduce their manpower sizes, and dozens of local government-attached development corps will be shut down over time.

Besides these organizational and manpower downsizing measures, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs is planning to introduce an array of new performance management systems. Aimed at eliminating lackluster performance on the part of local government officials, the new performance management system will include: individual performance management under the concept of management by objective; introduction of point systems to be applied to compensation and promotion decisions; introduction of an annual salary contract system; and expansion of positions to be held by contract-based appointees and experts.


The Korean Civil Service System

DSC00323 copy.JPG (204455 bytes)

The Korean civil service is based on a grade system which reflects a strong tradition of seniority. Position assignments are made strictly according to grade, and remuneration is based on grade and length of service. The civil service is also characteristically a closed system: recruitment from outside is allowed only at certain grade levels, with age limitations imposed in favor of the young. Vacant positions, except at the lowest grade level, are filled mostly by promotions based on seniority. Korean civil servants, under provisions of the Civil Service Law, are servants of the people. They are required to be kind, fair and sincere.


Size

As of May 31, 1998, the Korean civil service was comprised of 933,384 individuals employed by both central and local governments in various job areas and grade levels. Of this number, 915,750 work for the executive branch (559,081 at the central government level, including 286,000 teachers, 91,500 police force and fire fighters, and 356,669 civil servants working at the local level). An additional 3,346 persons work for the legislature (12,078 for the judiciary, and 2,210 for the Constitutional Court and the National Election Commission). The ratio of civil servants to the nation's population is roughly 1 to 49.

The May 31, 1998 figure for the civil service size reflects an increase of 635 over one year period. The civil service sector has grown rapidly. Civil servants numbered 253,186 in 1962, 417,348 in 1970, 596,431 in 1980, 818,121 in 1990, and reached a peak of 936,689 in February 1998, when the current government of President Kim Dae-jung was inaugurated. The new administration soon began taking measures to reduce its size. The downsizing efforts of the current government resulted in a decrease of 3,305 employees for the three-month period between February 1998 and May 1998.


Classification

Civil servants are broadly classified into two groups: "career" civil servants and "special career" (i.e. non-career) civil servants. The career civil servants constitute an absolute majority, as they include all the groups categorized as: general services personnel (those in engineering, research, and general administrative jobs); special services personnel (judges, prosecutors, diplomatic, police, fire-fighting, educational, and military personnel, civilian employees in the military, employees of the national intelligence service, and other personnel classified as special services by other laws); and technical services personnel (those in various technical and clerical services). The special career civil servants include: politically determined personnel (elected officials of all kinds, officials requiring consent by the National Assembly before appointment, and high ranking political appointees usually at the vice-ministerial level or above); specially designated services personnel (other political appointees and those in positions designated as requiring special talents or skills); contract-based personnel (experts employed through fixed-period contracts); and manual workers.

Classification of career civil servants, other than by area of service as indicated above, is based on grades. There are nine grades, with grade 1 being the highest (assistant minister level) and 9 the lowest. This grade system applies fully to the engineering and administrative job groups. Other job groups, although not so well suited for this grade system, widely use so-called "grade-equivalency" to define one's status relative to those in the administrative job group. For instance, the principals of public schools, the chiefs of police stations, researchers who are the heads of divisions in research agencies-all are regarded as being equivalent to a grade 4 official in the administrative group (a division chief in a central government agency). Qualification of every government position is specified strictly in terms of the title. A bureau chief, for instance, should be an administrative associate executive manager (grade 3) or an administrative executive manager (grade 2); a division chief should be an administrative senior manager, or a chemical engineering senior manager (grade 4), or an administrative associate executive manager (grade 3), and so forth. It is in this manner that position assignments are strictly grade-based.


Recruitments

New outside recruitments for career service are made at the 9th, 7th, and 5th grade levels. Manpower vacancies at the 9th grade are met by new recruitments, while vacancies at the 7th and 5th grades are filled in large part by promotions and, to a lesser extent, through new recruitments. New recruitments are made through competitive written examinations. These new recruitments are intended to infuse fresh, young blood into the civil service system.

Apart from this limited scope for new recruitments and a recently introduced expert recruitment system (in which a limited number of positions are designated for contract-based appointments from both inside and outside the civil service sector), vacant positions are filled by promotions. Grade promotions are made either by competitive examination or by reviews among candidates. To be a candidate for promotion, one should first meet the minimum grade-specific length-of-service requirements, and then climb up through the list of candidates until he/she reaches the top range. In climbing up the list, the results of performance evaluation and training matter to some extent, but seniority is the key. It is in this sense that promotions are mainly seniority-based.


Remuneration

Pay for public servants is a function of grade and length of career. Those at the same grade with the same length of career receive the same amount of pay, regardless of job group, education or any other job-related abilities. The pay system consists of a basic salary that makes up about 45 percent of total pay, and an array of special compensations in the form of bonuses and allowances. Everyone gets a within-the-grade step increase once a year.


Current Government Reform Efforts

Faced with growing needs for a clean, democratic, decentralized, and competitive government to help society cope effectively with increasing international competition, the Korean government over the last several years has taken various steps to reform its traditional structure and methods of operation. Under pressures associated with an unprecedented economic crisis which began in late 1997, the government is now facing an even greater, and more urgent need to reform itself into a cleaner, more efficient organization.

The current government started by reducing the number of executive ministries from 23 to 17 when it was launched in February 1998, and is now working on a wide range of programs to drastically restructure the entire public sector. Included in the government reform programs are: the downsizing of the public sector, including central and local governments, public enterprises and other government-supported organizations, the introduction of competition into the civil service through the use of performance-based pay and merit-based promotions; the substantial increase of contract-based appointments of experts; the introduction of incentives for curbing government spending; the reduction of government bureaucracy and regulations; and the downsizing of the central government through continued decentralization.


Local Government

Local governments, according to Article 117 of the Constitution, "shall deal with matters pertaining to the well-being of local residents, shall manage properties, and may establish their own rules and regulations regarding local autonomy as delegated by national laws and decrees." (It should be noted that, unless otherwise specificied, "local government" here refers broadly to sub-national governments at the provincial as well as municipal levels.) This constitutional provision, however, remained largely unfulfilled until July 1995, when the nation witnessed, for the first time in more than thirty years, the inauguration of popularly elected governors and mayors for provincial and local governments. Until then (except for a period of less than one year just before the military coup d'etat of 1961 when a parliamentary system was in place) local governments were no more than local administrative districts of the central government. The heads of local governments (in effect, simply administrative authorities) were appointed by the central government, and their capacity for autonomous decision-making was virtually nonexistent.

Highly centralized governments have been a strong tradition in Korea, extending back more than six hundred years to the establishment of the ChosCon Dynasty (1392-1910). Thus, even with the advent of decentralization and popularly-elected local governments, a long road lies ahead before achieving local autonomy to a degree and extent practiced today in advanced societies.

The second comprehensive local elections was held on June 4, 1998, three years after the first elections in 1995. Beginning with the 1998 elections, local elections will take place every four years.

The functions of the elected local government CEOs, according to law, include: any functions delegated by the central government; management of public properties and facilities; assessment and collection of local taxes and fees; provision of services and goods to residents; and management of other administrative affairs. Each of the local governments has a Board of Education for handling education and cultural matters within its jurisdictions. Local councils are also authorized to inspect and audit local governments.


Administrative system

Currently, there are 16 provincial-level governments, and 235 lower-level local governments (hereafter, municipal governments), including 72 shi (city) governments, 94 gun (county) governments, and 69 gu (borough) governments within the provincial-level metropolitan cities. Provincial governments, although they have to some extent, their own functions, basically serve as an intermediary between the central and municipal governments. Thus, their administrative systems resemble smaller versions of the central government's system. In fact, administrative units generally represent one-to-one matches with the central government's ministries and agencies, such that policies and programs directed by a specific central agency can be handled (received, conveyed to the municipalities, and reported back from the municipalities to the central agency) by a corresponding unit in the provincial government. The administrative systems within municipal governments are, for similar reasons, not dissimilar to those of the provincial governments. Thus, the administrative systems of all levels of governments, even those of the non-autonomous administrative districts at still lower levels beneath municipal governments, can be characterized in two words: uniform and comprehensive.

Municipal governments deliver services to the residents through an administrative district system. This system consists of what are called Cup and myCon in the gun government or less urbanized areas in the shi government, and dong in the gu government or urbanized areas in the shi government. Each municipal government has several of these districts which serve as field offices for handling service needs of their constituents (their number ranging from about 5,000 to 20,000 residents depending on the size of jurisdiction areas and population density). District offices are engaged mainly in routine and simple administrative and social service functions. Unusual and complex matters are dealt with directly by the municipal governments. Some essential functions, like public safety, road signs, fire protection, public schools, prosecution, and correction, are handled directly by central or provincial governments through their own field offices; and some other functions like public health and extension services are handled directly by the municipal government through separate delivery systems.

Local governments account for 32 percent of the total government employment, with 356,669 employees as of May 31, 1998, in both provincial and municipal governments they also account for 36 percent of total government expenditures. Their personnel and budgets are strictly controlled by the central government, with the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs being the primary supervising and controlling agency. Personnel systems, including classification, recruitment, promotion, and remuneration, are all the same as those of the central government. This is because every policy determined by the central government applies uniformly nationwide.


Intergovernmental Relations

Local governments depend heavily on the central government for decisions and funding for their roles and functions, organization and personnel, and budgets. Their main function is to implement centrally determined policies and programs as directed and guided by central government ministries and agencies. Local governments do not have their own judicial, prosecution, police, or education systems. These systems belong to, and are operated exclusively by, the central government.

On the organization and personnel side, deputy CEOs are, by law, dispatched by the central government (by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, to be more specific). It is these deputies that hold the authority to control all administrative matters of local governments. Any major changes in organization or manpower structure are subject to approval by the higher level of government, meaning the central government must approve changes in the provincial government, and the provincial government must approve changes in the municipal government. All policies governing personnel, including recruitment, promotion, performance evaluation, work conditions, and remuneration, are centrally established in a uniform fashion such that no variation may exist.

Financially, local governments rely so heavily on the central government that, if funding were withheld, the majority of them would cease operations within a month or two after commencing a new budget year. This is owing to several reasons, including a lack of balance in the distribution of revenue sources between the central and local governments and more fundamentally, a poor tax base in many of the local governments.


Reform Efforts

Local governments will soon be a subject of major reforms in their organization, personnel, and modes of operation. Reform measures, to be initiated by the central government, will likely include: the downsizing of organizations, not only internal and external administrative units, but also local public enterprises, and other organizations financially supported by the local government, as well as overseas offices; manpower reduction and restructuring, and the introduction of business-like management systems.

According to a reform plan drafted by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, the municipal governments' administrative district offices (Cup, myCon, and dong) will be substantially reduced in number and converted into social service centers; an electronic resident registration card system will soon be introduced, replacing the current paper-based document systems; the management of government-operated sewage treatment plants, cultural centers, and sports facilities will be contracted out to the private sector; and a substantial proportion of the work performed by unskilled administrative and clerical support personnel, manual laborers, security guards, garbage collectors, street sweepers, and road repair workers will be reduced or contracted out. All these measures will result in an estimated reduction of 87,000 employees, or 30 percent of all local government manpower nationwide. In addition, local public enterprises will also be forced to reduce their manpower sizes, and dozens of local government-attached development corps will be shut down over time.

Besides these organizational and manpower downsizing measures, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs is planning to introduce an array of new performance management systems. Aimed at eliminating lackluster performance on the part of local government officials, the new performance management system will include: individual performance management under the concept of management by objective; introduction of point systems to be applied to compensation and promotion decisions; introduction of an annual salary contract system; and expansion of positions to be held by contract-based appointees and experts.

Government ::Korea, South

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Korea
conventional short form: South Korea
local long form: Taehan-min'guk
local short form: Han'guk
abbreviation: ROK
Government type:
republic
Capital:
name: Seoul
geographic coordinates: 37 33 N, 126 59 E
time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
9 provinces (do, singular and plural) and 7 metropolitan cities (gwangyoksi, singular and plural)
provinces: Cheju-do, Cholla-bukto (North Cholla), Cholla-namdo (South Cholla), Ch'ungch'ong-bukto (North Ch'ungch'ong), Ch'ungch'ong-namdo (South Ch'ungch'ong), Kangwon-do, Kyonggi-do, Kyongsang-bukto (North Kyongsang), Kyongsang-namdo (South Kyongsang)
metropolitan cities: Inch'on-gwangyoksi, Kwangju-gwangyoksi, Pusan-gwangyoksi, Soul-t'ukpyolsi (Seoul), Taegu-gwangyoksi, Taejon-gwangyoksi, Ulsan-gwangyoksi
Independence:
15 August 1945 (from Japan)
National holiday:
Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)
Constitution:
17 July 1948; note - amended or rewritten many times; current constitution approved on 29 October 1987
Legal system:
combines elements of continental European civil law systems, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage:
19 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President LEE Myung-bak (since 25 February 2008)
head of government: Prime Minister KIM Hwang-sik (since 1 October 2010)
cabinet: State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation
(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
elections: president elected by popular vote for a single five-year term; election last held on 19 December 2007 (next to be held in December 2012); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly
election results: LEE Myung-bak elected president on 19 December 2007; percent of vote - LEE Myung-bak (GNP) 48.7%; CHUNG Dong-young (UNDP) 26.1%); LEE Hoi-chang (independent) 15.1; others 10.1%
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Kukhoe (299 seats; 245 members elected in single-seat constituencies, 54 elected by proportional representation; members serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 9 April 2008 (next to be held in April 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - GNP 172, UDP 83, LFP 20, PPA 8, DLP 5, RKP 1, independents 9
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (justices appointed by the president with consent of National Assembly); Constitutional Court (justices appointed by the president based partly on nominations by National Assembly and Chief Justice of the court)
Political parties and leaders:
Democratic Party or DP [CHUNG Sye-kyun] (formerly the United Democratic Party or UDP); Democratic Labor Party or DLP [KANG Ki-kap]; Grand National Party or GNP [AHN Sang-soo]; Liberty Forward Party or LFP [LEE Hoi-chang]; New Progressive Party or NPP [ROH Hoe-chan]; Pro-Park Alliance or PPA [SUH Choung-won]; Renewal Korea Party or RKP [SONG Yong-o]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Federation of Korean Industries; Federation of Korean Trade Unions; Korean Confederation of Trade Unions; Korean National Council of Churches; Korean Traders Association; Korean Veterans' Association; National Council of Labor Unions; National Democratic Alliance of Korea; National Federation of Farmers' Associations; National Federation of Student Associations
International organization participation:
ADB, AfDB (nonregional member), APEC, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, CD, CICA, CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Paris Club (associate), PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIL, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador HAN Duck-soo
chancery: 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 939-5600
FAX: [1] (202) 387-0205
consulate(s) general: Agana (Guam), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Kathleen STEPHENS
embassy: 32 Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-710
mailing address: US Embassy Seoul, APO AP 96205-5550
telephone: [82] (2) 397-4114
FAX: [82] (2) 738-8845
Flag description:
white with a red (top) and blue yin-yang symbol in the center; there is a different black trigram from the ancient I Ching (Book of Changes) in each corner of the white field; the Korean national flag is called Taegukki; white is a traditional Korean color and represents peace and purity; the blue section represents the negative cosmic forces of the yin, while the red symbolizes the opposite positive forces of the yang; each trigram (kwae) denotes one of the four universal elements, which together express the principle of movement and harmony
National anthem:
name: "Aegukga" (Patriotic Song)
lyrics/music: YUN Ch'i-Ho or AN Ch'ang-Ho/AHN Eaktay
note: adopted 1948, well known by 1910; both North Korea and South Korea's anthems share the same name and have a vaguely similar melody but have different lyrics
 

 


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