The 1980 Constitution
One of Chun's inaugural promises was the promulgation of a new constitution and the holding of a national referendum to approve it. On September 29, 1980, the government announced the draft of a constitution that in many ways was the most democratic South Korea had ever had--except for the supplementary provisions and the procedure for presidential election. The guarantee of peoples' democratic rights was absolute, including the right to privacy in communications, the prohibition of torture, and the inadmissability in court trials of confessions obtained by force. The president, who was to be elected by an electoral college and to serve a single seven-year term, was given strong powers, including the right to dissolve the National Assembly, which in turn could bring down cabinets but not the president. In the event that the constitution was amended to extend the president's term of office, such changes were not to be applied to the incumbent. The document received the overwhelming approval of the voters--91.6 percent--at the national referendum held on October 22, 1980.
The constitution, however, was a "promissory note." Until the new National Assembly was elected and inaugurated, the Legislative Council for National Security, to be appointed by Chun, would enact all laws. A supplementary provision in the constitution also called for the dissolution of all existing political parties. In effect, by offering to bring in a democratic government by June 1981, Chun had obtained a mandate to change the political landscape in whatever form he chose. The new constitution placed South Korea under a constitutional dictatorship from October 1980 to June 1981.
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