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Korea's Government/Constitution

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The Republic of Korea has a democratic form of government based on the separation of powers and a system of checks and balances.  The Constitution was first adopted in 1948 when the Republic was established, and has been revised nine times as the country struggled to make democracy work effectively.  It guarantees the basic rights and freedoms of the people, including, but not limited to, equality before the law, freedom from arbitrary arrest, freedom of residence, the right to vote and hold public office, the right to privacy and freedom of religion, speech, the press and assembly, as well as the right to a clean environment and to seek happiness. 

 It also provides for various economic rights, such as the right to own property, the right - as well as the duty - to work, the freedom of choice of occupation and the right to collective bargaining to obtain optimum wages and fair compensation. 


The most recent revision of the constitution provided, among other things, for the direct election of the President for a single five-year term and for the institution of a system of Local Autonomy for the first time in 30 years.  These two provisions are key to the strengthening of democratic institutions in the Republic.  The revision also reinstated the right of the National Assembly to inspect all aspects of state affairs on a regular basis, as a check on the power of the executive.  Finally, it charges the Government to seek to reunify the nation.

The Government consists of three branches: the legislature, in the form of a unicameral National Assembly; the judiciary, consisting of district and appellate courts and the Supreme Court; and the executive, headed by the President who is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.  The President is assisted by the Prime Minister and the State Council. 


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:
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
15 August 1945 (from Japan)
National holiday:
Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)
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
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


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