The government of the Republic of Korea was launched on August 15, 1948. Three months earlier, the first members (198) of the National Assembly had been elected in the country’s first general election held under UN supervision. On July 17 of the same year, the first National Assembly promulgated the Constitution. Its members elected Rhee Syngman as the first President on July 20. Rhee Syngman was widely known both in and out of the country as a leader of the country’s independence movement. The 3rd UN General Assembly held in Paris in December of that year passed a resolution that the government established in the south of the 38th parallel was the only legitimate government on the Korean Peninsula.
The country’s Constitution was promulgated on July 17, 1948 after a month and half of work for its enactment. The government observes it as a national holiday. The first amendment to the Constitution was made in July 1952, while the 9th and last amendment was passed by referendum on October 27, 1987. The country’s Constitution adopts liberal democracy as the basic principle of governance. The Constitution guarantees the people’s freedom and rights under various laws. It also guarantees equal opportunities in all sectors, including politics, economy, society and culture, and recognizes the necessity of establishing a welfare state. The Constitution also stipulates that all people have the obligation to pay taxes, engage in national defense, educate their children, and work.
The Constitution states that the country should endeavor to maintain international peace. It stipulates that international treaties signed by the country and generally accepted international laws have the same effects as domestic laws. Under the Constitution, the status of aliens is guaranteed in accordance with international laws and treaties.
Korea Information - Government
Executive, Legislative, and the Judiciary
The National Assembly is an institution that represents the people’s opinions. All the laws of the country are made by the National Assembly. At present, the National Assembly has 300 fixed member, each of whom is elected for a term of four years. The National Assembly is composed of 246 members elected in local constituencies and 54 members elected by political parties for the purpose of proportional representation. The latter are meant for vocational representation. At present, the ruling party is the Saenuri Party, as it has the largest number of seats at the National Assembly. The leading opposition party is the New Politics Alliance for Democracy. The first National Assembly was launched in May 31, 1948. The 20th National Assembly was formed through the general elections on April 13, 2016.
The National Assembly building is located in Yeouido near the Hangang River that flows through Seoul. The National Assembly is composed of 253 members elected in local constituencies and 47 members elected through proportional representation. The latter are meant as a means of bringing persons with specific professional expertise into the assembly. As of June 2018, the ruling party is the Democratic Party of Korea, due to its plurality in the legislature. The leading opposition party is the Liberty Korea Party.
The executive right of the government is exercised by the Executive Branch headed by the President. At present, the President is elected through a direct election for a term of five years. Under the Constitution, the President cannot be reelected for a second term. President Moon Jae-in took office on May 10, 2017, after winning the presidential election held the previous day.
The Cabinet Meeting, in which the President and the Prime Minister serve as the Chair and the Vice Chair, respectively, deliberates on important policies under the rights accorded to the Executive Branch of the government. In the absence of the President, the Prime Minister controls the ministries of the government on his/her behalf. As of June 2018, the Executive Branch of the government operates 23 ministries, 17 administrative authorities, 2 boards, 4 offices, and 6 committees.
The Judiciary Branch of the government is composed of the Supreme Court, appellate courts, district courts, family courts, administrative courts, and the patent court among others. The Supreme Court Chief Justice is appointed by the President with the consent of the National Assembly, and other Supreme Court justices are appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Chief Justice. The term for the Chief Justice and justices is six years.
Korea Information - Government
Besides the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary Branches of the government, a number of other agencies carry out their respective independent functions.
The Constitutional Court has the right to review whether a specific law is unconstitutional, to judge an appeal for the impeachment of a high-ranking official, and decide on the disbandment of a political party under the Constitution. The Constitutional Court is composed of three judges appointed by the President, three judges appointed by the National Assembly, and three judges appointed by the Supreme Court Chief Justice. The President of the Constitutional Court is appointed by the President with the consent of the National Assembly. The National Election Commission handles matters associated with elections, fair management of referendums, political parties, and political funds. A member of the commission is not allowed to join a specific political party or engage in political activities. Their term is six years. The chairman is elected from among the members.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) performs the role of respecting and realizing the dignity and values of human beings as sovereign individuals by protecting and promoting their basic rights. The commission was launched in November 2001 in light of the people’s earnest desire for improvement of the country’s human rights conditions expressed during the democratization process. The commission also handles cases concerning human rights infringement or discrimination involving a foreigner residing or working in the country.
Korea Information - Government
The country adopted the local autonomous system in June 1995. The Local Autonomy Act was enacted in 1949, but local autonomy was not implemented during the period of political upheaval, including the Korean War, the April 1960 Student Revolution, the May 1961 Coup d’état. Local governments are divided into high-level and low-level local governments. With the inclusion of Sejong Special Autonomous City in July 2012, the number of high-level local governments was increased to seventeen (i.e. Seoul Special City, six metropolises, eight provinces, and Jeju Special Self-Governing Province).
The number of low-level local authorities stands at 226 (75 cities, 82 counties, and 69 districts). The heads of local governments and councilors are elected through direct election. The term for local government heads is four years, and they can be reelected for up to three terms. There is no limit on how many terms a local councilor may serve. The local autonomous system is very significant as a means of realizing the goal of grassroots democracy through local residents’ participation.
Korea Information - Government
South Korea strives to promote friendly and cooperative relations with other countries. As of July 2018, the Republic of Korea has established diplomatic relations with 190 countries, operating permanent embassies in 114 countries, in addition to 45 consular offices and 5 representative offices. Furthermore, there are 41 overseas Korean cultural centers and culture and information officers in 31 countries across the globe as part of efforts to promote Korean culture.
The country is committed to carrying out positive activities as a member of diverse international organizations such as UNESCO, IMF, APEC, IAEA, ILO, WHO. South Korea became a member of the UN in 1991, and joined the OECD in 1996. The country has also carried out activities as a member of the IOC since 1947.
South Korea does its best in the sector of international cooperation in keeping with its enhanced economic strength. The country takes part in programs designed to provide support for impoverished countries through the World Bank, the IMF, and the OECD. Recently, the country has also joined worldwide efforts for peacekeeping, global economic stabilization, environmental conservation, etc.
South Korea chaired the G20 Summit held in Seoul in November 2010, confirming its status as a leading country, under the slogan “Shared Growth Beyond Crisis.” Observers said that the country dealt very efficiently with foreign exchange concerns, a core agenda item during the global economic crisis.
The Nuclear Security Summit Seoul 2012 was another event that showed the status of South Korea as a central country in the struggle for world peace. Fifty-three world leaders and four heads of international organizations discussed how to organize international cooperation to block nuclear terror attempts.
A special summit between the Republic of Korea and the Association of the 10 Southeast Asian Nations was held in December 2014. In commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of ASEAN–ROK dialog relations, this meeting was aimed at deepening trust relations. As a follow-up to the summit, the ASEAN Culture House was opened in the Busan district of Haeundae in September 2017.
South Korea is enhancing its status in the international community by achieving not able results in the Green Growth sector. The country has hosted the UN Green Climate Fund (GCF), and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is also headquartered in Seoul. It is expected that the GGGI will be able to contribute greatly to the development of the international community as an example of international cooperation.
Provision of Support for Developing Countries
“In only half a century, South Korea transformed itself from one of the most impoverished countries in the world into a developed country capable of providing aid to others. Given this phenomenal success story, South Korea was a fitting host for the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, the largestscale international meeting in the development and cooperation sector, which was held in Busan in November 2011.
South Korea’s foreign aid programs are coordinated by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). This body was established in 1991, and organizes programs designed to provide support for developing countries and to share South Korea’s own development experience. KOICA provides ODA (Official Development Assistance) of US$400-500 million annually to developing countries in Asia and Africa; these funds contribute to numerous areas, including education, health, agriculture/forestry/ fisheries, public administration, and industrial energy, among others.
South Korea is also pleased to be making a contribution to world peace and security through taking part in a wide variety of UN peacekeeping operations and by supporting the UN peacekeeping budget. Currently, South Korean troops are stationed in eight countries including Lebanon, South Sudan, India, Pakistan, and West Sahara, where they are tasked with the maintenance of order, rehabilitation, medical services, and other activities