By Mark D. Whitaker
Three major political concerns of Korea ― equitable economics, constitutional change and the environment ― are seldom discussed together despite being interlinked.
I suggest a method to interlink them with green constitutional engineering, widening the ``Green New Deal" toward one of political stability, demotion of corruption and more representative equitable development. Three ideas are offered for constitutional revision debates in Korea in how green constitutional engineering can solve them.
The first debate is over districting; yet, no one has offered how to avoid districting that is partisan gerrymandering. Many accuse parties involved with ``district reform'' as merely scheming to elect more partisan incumbents by ``pre-rigging'' elections with creative line drawing.
This fails to create a competitive election and merely divides opposition artificially into separate districts or stuffs ballots (residences) of one party's supporters in one district. A real electoral reform of districts would draw them in a nonpartisan manner.
The public can be assured of this by making stable watersheds as the mandated form of electoral districting. Watersheds are biophysically real lines separating different drainage basins (water catchments). Drainage basins concentrate more than water.
Since much pollution risk is waterborne, watersheds represent areas where common environmental risk experiences exist. Therefore, watershed election districts should be the durable form of environmental risk feedback into state politics.
As a publicly desired neutral, nonpartisan way of drawing election boundaries, it has positive effects on party competition by removing gerrymandering to create truly representative parties. Parties should compete to represent the people's interests, not simply win by default because of gerrymandering.
A second debate is over whether multimember districts (multiple seats per district) or majoritarian districts (one seat per district) would provide stability. Political scientists note that stability problems exist because of ``pure'' static types of biased incentive structures for competition before elections and cooperation after them.
As a check against this, I offer a compromise by suggesting that ``flexible seating'' be institutionalized depending on the election's outcome. If a watershed district votes more than 50 percent for one candidate, then one person should be seated to accurately reflect the result of the majority.
If a district votes for only a plurality winner (less than 50 percent), then the top three multiple winners should be seated (with their direct percentage of the vote seat) to accurately reflect the result of the majority as well ― since voters in this case want multiple people representing them. This ``flexible seating'' puts the decision in the hands of the people.
It is achieved by ``PRMA'' (proportional representation with majoritarian allotment) potential voting rules. Both structural outcomes are options that simultaneously work as a check and balance on the biases of each and also encourage an interparty competition to have incentives to integrate the full electorate.
Smaller parties are assured their contention is worth something under plurality wins, and larger parties are encouraged to be more integrative for majority wins. Korea has had ever-lowering vote totals and party legitimacy. PRMA would provide parties with incentives to be more integrative.
A third debate is the relative power between the executive (prime minister/president) branch versus the legislature. I suggest a similar merged solution in a ``flexible executive'' arrangement based on election outcomes as well.
Let the outcome of voting determine the structure in each election through how their level of trustworthiness of a candidate is reflected accurately in how much power a winner is allowed to have each time.
For instance, if an executive candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote, the executive branch goes presidential for that term given the greater trust shown. If an executive gets a plurality win (less than 50 percent), the winner has less trust, and the public wants him or her on a tighter leash.
This means the executive goes parliamentarian, and the winner is a prime minister that rules in closer association with legislative checks. This provides legislative checks on executive power.
However, multiparty legislatures can have their own hamstrung ``gridlock'' difficulties and require a check against their power by allowances for having a stronger executive as president when election outcomes demand it.
It's encouragement for any executive to win as much power and legitimacy behind his or her party nationally beforehand instead of forcing it afterward in a partisan manner. A ``flexible executive'' solves several debates at once.
These three ideas (of about 60 in my book) are worth tabling to concerned Koreans wishing to avoid repeating mistakes of static, anthropocentric constitutional engineering. Stable constitutions can provide party incentives to integrate the full electorate and to integrate the environment.
States are eco-centric institutions that manipulate for good or ill variegated environments, and South Korea is a very regionalized polity. This regionality can easily be extended in the event of North/South Korean unification, unlike other plans tabled.
President Lee Myung-bak talks about bulldozing regionalism. He sounds like the late former President Roh Moo-hyun. However, that would be disastrously destabilizing, because Korean politics are regional. The state can work creatively with regional reality to be more legitimate and stable.
Opposing regionality is political suicide as Roh's attempt showed while in office, and Lee's attempt would result in the same failure. With an abysmally low approval rating for Lee's Grand National Party (GNP) and its main opposition the Democratic Party (DP) with only 35 percent and 30 percent, respectively, the only way to get referendum approval is to make it clearly a nonpartisan change.
Suggestions I have are nonpartisan, multiparty enhancements with green multiplier effects. When you integrate the full electorate in this fashion, in stable watersheds of environmental risk feedback, you are on the road toward a bioregional state with a representative development policy and a stable multiparty system of legitimate government.
The writer is a professor of environmental sociology at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. He is also the author of ``Toward a Bioregional State'' (2005), the first book on green constitutional engineering, and ``Ecological Revolution'' (2009). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in the above article are those of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of The Korea Times.