SEOUL, South Korea -- The government announced Wednesday that South Koreans will vote next week on a draft constitution that would allow President Chun Doo-Hwan to stay in power seven more years.
The national referendum on the new constitution will take place next Wednesday, which has been declared a national holiday, the announcement said.
The nation's 20 million voters will be allowed to vote 'yes' or 'no' on the constitution, which limits the presidency to a single seven-year term and provides for a peaceful transfer of power.
Korean law forbids public debate on the proposed constitution, which seasoned observers expected to be adopted by an overwhelming vote.
If adopted, the constitution would replace the present Yushin _ revitalizing reform _ charter adopted by the late President Park Chung-hee in 1972.
Like the Yushin constitution, the new charter provides for an indirect election system in which the head of state is picked by an electoral college consisting of at least 5,000 popularly selected delegates.
The new constitution, however, bans re-election of an incumbent president, making it mandatory for him to step down after his first seven-year term.
Observers in Seoul believe the election of President Chun under the new constitution is almost guaranteed because foremost government opponent Kim Dae-jung is in jail and other influential political figures have effectively been removed.
Chun's decision means South Korea will return to the situation that existed before May 17 when the government expanded the law to crack down on political dissidents.
Technically, however, martial law rule in South Korea would not change significantly Friday.
The government decree was timed to pave the way for the scheduled voting on a national referendum next Wednesday. The referendum is to decide whether to adopt a new constitution that will replace the present Yushin constitution instituted by President Park in 1972.
The nation's 20 million voters will be allowed to vote 'yes' or 'no' on the constitution, which limits the presidency to a single seven-year term and provides for a peaceful transfer of power from one president to another.
Chun is expected to run for a full seven-year term under the new constitution.
Chun said he expects political activity in South Korea to resume by mid-December, but indicated that all political activities in the country would be subject to tight new regulations aimed at eliminating 'unproductive political behavior.'
The president lashed out at excessive political confrontation under the past two-party system and said he wants to see 'several' political parties emerge in the new political era.
To effectively push a presidential government system, Chun said he favors joining a political party, but said his final decision on that matter will be made later after considering opinions from various quarters.
The president also said the National Assembly and all political parties in South Korea will be dissolved when a new constitution is adopted in the referendum.
A new legislative body called the Legislative Council for National Security will replace the National Assembly, Chun said. It will consist of delegates representing all sectors, he added.