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Korea - Government

The Republic of Korea is governed by a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature. The Republic of Korea (commonly known as "South Korea") is a republic with powers nominally shared among the presidency, the legislature, and the judiciary, but traditionally dominated by the president. The president is chief of state and is elected for a single term of 5 years. The 299 members of the unicameral National Assembly are elected to 4-year terms; elections for the assembly were held on April 9, 2008. South Korea's judicial system comprises a Supreme Court, appellate courts, and a Constitutional Court. The judiciary is independent under the constitution. The country has nine provinces and seven administratively separate cities--the capital of Seoul, along with Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Incheon and Ulsan.

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.

As Korea enjoyed extensive and rapid economic development throughout the 1970s and 1980s, its people became more interested in political freedom and human rights issues. Democratization became a crucial concern in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. Middle class Koreans as well as workers' and college students' groups demanded democratic reform of politics and government.

Korea's long (and recent) experience with authoritarian governments and short history with democracy have resulted in a fundamental mistrust among the populace and a constant fear of a return to an authoritarian regime. This fear is particularly pervasive after 10 years of liberal rule, the conservatives -- and heirs to the authoritarian governments' legacy -- are back in power. Not surprising, liberals and progressives saw every move of President Lee Myung-bak as an attempt to turn the clock back to what they view as the bad old days. Koreans, scarred by a colonial history and the authoritarian governments that followed, have a deep-seated fear of an overly strong central government, a commitment to the protection of individual rights, and a growing expectation that the people will play a role in the country's political and governing processes.

The Ministry of Public Administration and Security (MOPAS) is regarded as the 'ministry of ministries' in that the MOPAS is responsible for overall national administrative affairs including government organizations, personnel, and e-government. The history of the MOPAS dates back to 1948 when the Ministry of Government Administration (MOGA) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) were established as separate ministries. In 1998, the MOGA and the MOHA were merged into one ministry, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MOGAHA). The current MOPAS was established through the merging of four government agencies: the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs (MOGAHA), the Civil Service Commission, the National Emergency Planning Commission, and part of the Ministry of Information and Communication.

Besides the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary Branches of the government, a number of other agencies carry out their respective independent functions.

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 co




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