South Korea versus America
South Korea versus America
I grew up in South Korea but I left my country to study in the US. I had a chance to experience life in both political systems and compare mechanisms of executive powers. Both states are democratic, which means that people have most of the power in the country, and the government works for the benefit of its citizens. Political systems of these two countries may seem similar but they have their differences. Although both the US and South Korea are presidential constitutional republics, they differ in the way they elect their chief executive and the rights this person has.
South Korea and the US are similar when comparing their executive branches. They both have a president as a chief executive, a prime minister, and a cabinet. Both presidents are heads of the state and commanders of the countries’ armies; however, none of them can declare an emergency state or war without the approval of the legislative branch that is represented by the National Assembly in South Korea and the Congress in the US. The chief executives of both states are vested with authority to approve legislation and suggest laws to the legislative branch, as well as to appoint their cabinet. Citizens of both countries have the right to choose their president through elections. Besides, the US Congress and the National Assembly of South Korea are entrusted with the right to impeach presidents if they neglect their duties. Sang-hun (2017) reported that such case occurred in South Korea, where Park Geun-hye, the former president of the country, was dismissed and accused of conspiracy and bribery. Moreover, presidents of both countries have the right to veto any bills, but a two-thirds majority of the Congress in the US or the National Assembly in South Korea can override a veto of the president. The Constitution of the US does not specifically state that presidents cannot dissolve the Congress, but it is obvious from the content that they do not have such power. The US Congress consists of House of Representatives and the Senate, and the US Constitution clearly states that the former “shall be composed of members chosen every second year” (art. I, § 2). The president of South Korea also does not have a lawful right to dismiss the National Assembly of the country.
Even though the executive system and chief-executive powers seem alike, they have some crucial differences. In particular, some peculiarities of presidential service are noticeably different. First, in the US, the president adopts the role of the head of the state and government (Smith, 2016). In South Korea, the president becomes only the chief of the state and leaves the position of the head of government to the prime minister. Unlike in America, the Korean president appoints the prime minister. The terms that chief executives serve also vary in these two countries. In the US, the elected president can serve two four-year terms, when in South Korea, the president can serve only one five-year term.
Nevertheless, the main differences occur in the process of elections and voting. In the US, only candidates chosen by two major parties, Republicans and Democrats, can participate in the presidential race, while in South Korea, candidates can represent a party or be individual independent candidates. Therefore, during the last year elections, America was choosing between two candidates, and this year, South Korea had “13 candidates to pick from” (Vaswani, 2017). Furthermore, the presidential elections in America are not direct, while in South Korea, they are. In South Korea, electors vote directly for a preferable candidate through ballots. The candidate who receives the majority of the votes wins the elections and becomes the president. In the US, this process is completely different. Before the actual voting date, the country holds the primaries where it chooses its candidates. In some states, every citizen can vote, while in others, only registered members of the respective party can participate in primary elections. However, people do not vote directly for the candidates, they choose delegates who afterward decide during the national party convention who will run the race for chief-executive chair. After that, the real election process begins, and again citizens of the US do not vote directly. On the election date, people choose electors who will choose the future president (CGP Grey, 2011). One more difference in the election process of these countries is the voting age. In the US, everyone who is over 18 can give their voice to one of the candidates, but in South Korea, voters are obliged to be 19 years old to have a voting right. Thus, the executive branch and voting process in these countries are different and have their pros and cons.
On the subject of the election process, South Korea and the US have their pros and cons. The president of the US can be reelected for the second term if the chief executive’s work is highly beneficial for the country and the Americans want to stay with the same person for four more years. Unfortunately, South Korean presidents can serve only one term of five years and have no lawful right to be reelected. It seems a disadvantage of the system as the country cannot prolong the service of a good leader. Moreover, due to more complicated and indirect process of voting in America, it is easier to prevent rigged elections than in Korea. For instance, McCurry (2017) reports “South Korea’s spy agency has admitted it conducted an illicit campaign to influence the country’s 2012 presidential election.” At the same time, Korean voters have a privilege of choosing from thirteen candidates instead of two. Sometimes, in the US, people do not want to vote for either of two candidates, but in the case of Korea, they have many options that give voters more liberty of choice. Nevertheless, this opportunity looks more like a disadvantage to the public because the choice of the president can be driven by one’s personal preferences rather than a logical conclusion. The president of South Korea also has more advantages than the chief executive of the US, for example, appointing the prime minister of the country and choosing a person who is more comfortable to work with. However, both of these countries are democratic, and most of the power belongs to people, which is the biggest and common advantage of both political systems.
Consequently, it is clear that American and South Korean executive branches are fairly alike, as well as different, in some points. Both countries are presidential republics and choose their leaders through constitutional elections, but the way the electoral system works and the terms that presidents can serve are different. The minimum age of voters also differs in these countries. American and Korean presidents both appoint their cabinet and cannot dissolve the heads of the legislative branch, but the situation changes when it comes to the appointing of the prime minister. Due to the differences that these countries have in terms of election of chief executives, their rights, and duties, they also enjoy some advantages and suffer from disadvantages of their political systems. It is clearly seen that even though the US and South Korea are presidential republics, the duties of chief executives, as well as the voting process in these countries, differ in details.
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