Government of South Korea

Government of South Korea

The Government of South Korea is divided into three branches: executive, judicial, and legislative. The executive and judicial branches operate primarily at the national level, although various ministries in the executive branch also carry out local functions. Local governments are semi-autonomous, and contain executive and legislative bodies of their own. The judicial branch operates at both the national and local levels.

The South Korean government's structure is determined by the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. This document has been revised several times since its first promulgation in 1948 (for details, see History of South Korea). However, it has retained many broad characteristics; with the exception of the short-lived Second Republic of South Korea, the country has always had a presidential system with a relatively independent chief executive.

As with most stable three-branch systems, a careful system of checks and balances is in place. For instance, the judges of the Constitutional Court are partially appointed by the executive, and partially by the legislature. Likewise, when a resolution of impeachment is passed by the legislature, it is sent to the judiciary for a final decision.

Executive branch

The executive branch is headed by the president. The president is elected directly by the people, and is the only elected member of the national executive. The president serves for one five-year term; additional terms are not permitted. The president is head of government, head of state, and commander in chief of the South Korean armed forces. The president is vested with the power to declare war, and can also propose legislation to the National Assembly. He can also declare a state of emergency or martial law, subject to the Assembly's subsequent approval. However, the president does not have the power to dissolve the National Assembly. This safeguard reflects the experience of totalitarian governments under the First, Third, and Fourth Republics.

In the event that they are suspected of serious wrongdoing, the president and cabinet-level officials are subject to impeachment by the National Assembly. Such cases are decided by the Constitutional Court.

The president is assisted in his duties by the Prime Minister of South Korea. The Prime Minister is appointed by the president and approved by the National Assembly. In the event that the president is unable to fulfil his duties, the Prime Minister takes control of the state. There are no limits on who can fill the position. The Prime Minister has the power to recommend the appointment or dismissal of cabinet ministers.

tate Council

The State Council is made up of the president, Prime Minister, and cabinet-level ministers. These ministers represent the 15 ministries of the South Korean government. The Council is charged with deliberating on major policy decisions; its meetings are chaired by the president and officiated by the Prime Minister. Although the Council has no power to make final decisions, the Constitution requires that certain matters be brought to it before final decisions are made. These include bestowals of state honors, drafts of constitutional amendments, declarations of war, budget proposals, government restructurings, and emergency orders.


The head of each ministry is appointed by the president. The ministers report to the Prime Minister.

*Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (문화체육관광부, 文化體育觀光部)
*Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (교육과학기술부, 敎育科學技術部)
*Ministry of Environment (환경부, 環境部)
* Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (농림수산식품부, 農林水産食品部)
* Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (외교통상부, 外交通商部)
* Ministry of Gender Equality (여성부, 女性部)
*Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs (보건복지가족부, 保健福祉家族部)
* Ministry of Justice (법무부, 法務部)
* Ministry of Knowledge Economy (지식경제부, 知識經濟部)
* Ministry of Labor (노동부, 勞動部)
* Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs (국토해양부, 國土海洋部)
* Ministry of National Defense (국방부, 國防部)
* Ministry of Public Administration and Security (행정안전부, 行政安全部)
* Ministry of Strategy and Finance (기획재정부, 企劃財政部)
* Ministry of Unification (통일부, 統一部)
* Ministry of Legislation (법제처, 法制處)
* Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs (국가보훈처, 國家報勳處)

Independent agencies

Many of these agencies are managed by intermediate agencies; others report directly to the Prime Minister or to the President.

The following agencies report directly to the President:
*National Security Council (국가안전보장회의)
*Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification (민주평화통일자문위원회)
*Presidential Council on Science and Technology (국가과학기술자문회의)
*Presidential Commission on Small and Medium Business (중소기업특별위원회)
*Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (국가청렴위원회)
*Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths (군의문사진상규명위원회)
*Board of Audit and Inspection (감사원) -- the chairperson of this board, charged with general administrative oversight, must be approved by the National Assembly.
*National Intelligence Service (국가정보원)

Several offices report directly to the Prime Minister, including the Government Information Agency and the Fair Trade Commission. In addition, the following agencies report jointly to the Prime Minister and the head of their associated ministry:
*National Tax Service (국세청)
*National Statistical Office (통계청)
*Supreme Public Prosecutor (대검찰청)
*Military Manpower Administration (병무청)
*National Police Agency (경찰청)
*Korea Meteorological Administration (기상청)
*Cultural Properties Administration (문화재청)
*Rural Development Administration (농촌진흥청)
*Korea Forest Service (산림청)
*Small and Medium Business Administration (중소기업청)
*Korean Intellectual Property Office (특허청)
*Korea Food and Drug Administration (식품의약품안전청)
*National Maritime Police Agency (해양경찰청)
*Korean National Youth Commission (국가청소년위원회)

Presidential commissions

*Economic and Social Development Commission(노사정 위원회)
*Presidential Commission on Policy Planning(대통령 직속 정책기획 위원회 - 사람입국, 일자리 위원회)
*Presidential Committee on Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative(동북아시대 위원회)
*Presidential Committee on Government Innovation and Decentralization(정부혁신, 지방분권 위원회)
*Presidential Committee on Balanced National Development(국가균형발전 위원회)
*Presidential Committee on Sustainable Development(지속가능발전 위원회)
*Presidential Committee on Education Innovation(교육혁신 위원회)
*Presidential Committee on Agriculture, Fishery and Rural Polices(농어업, 농어촌특별대책 위원회)
*Presidential Committee for the Asian Hub-City of Culture(문화중심도시조성 위원회)
*Presidential Advisory Council on Science and Technology(과학기술중심사회추진 기획단)
*Presidential Committee on Judicial Reform(사법제도개혁추진 위원회)
*Presidential Committee on Architecture Culture and Construction Technology(건설기술, 건축문화선진화 위원회)

Legislative branch

At the national level, the legislative branch consists of the National Assembly of South Korea. This is a unicameral legislature; it consists of a single large assembly. Most of its 299 members are elected from single-member constituencies; however, 56 are elected through proportional representation. The members of the National Assembly serve for four years; in the event that a member is unable to complete his or her term, a by-election is held.The National Assembly is charged with deliberating and passing legislation, auditing the budget and administrative procedures, ratifying treaties, and approving state appointments. In addition, it has the power to impeach or recommend the removal of high officials.

The Assembly forms 17 standing committees to deliberate matters of detailed policy. For the most part, these coincide with the ministries of the executive branch.

Bills pass through these committees before they reach the floor. However, before they reach committee, they must already have gained the support of at least 20 members, unless they have been introduced by the president. To secure final passage, a bill must receive a majority of those present; a tie vote is not sufficient. After passage, bills are sent to the president for approval; they must be approved within 15 days.

Each year, the budget bill is submitted to the National Assembly by the executive. By law, it must be submitted at least 90 days before the start of the fiscal year, and the final version must be approved at least 30 days before the start of the fiscal year. The Assembly is also responsible for auditing accounts of past expenditures, which must be submitted at least 120 days before the start of the fiscal year.

Sessions of the Assembly may be either regular (once a year, for no more than 100 days) or extraordinary (by request of the president or a caucus, no more than 30 days). These sessions are open-door by default, but can be closed to the public by majority vote or by decree of the Speaker. In order for laws to be passed in any session, a quorum of half the members must be present.

Currently, five political parties of South Korea are represented in the National Assembly.

Judicial branch

The judicial branch is headed by the Constitutional Court. This system was newly established in the Sixth Republic, to help guard against the excesses shown by past regimes. The Constitutional Court consists of nine justices. Of these, three are recommended by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, three by the National Assembly, and three by the president; however, all must be appointed by the president. The President of the Constitutional Court is appointed by the national president, subject to the approval of the National Assembly. The members of the court serve for six-year renewable terms, and cannot be older than 65 (except for the President of the court, who may be as old as 70).

The Constitutional Court is charged purely with constitutional review and with deciding cases of impeachment. Other judicial matters are overseen by the Supreme Court. This is the final court of appeal for all cases in South Korean law. The Supreme Court, seated in Seoul, consists of fourteen Justices, including one Chief Justice. The Justices must be at least 40 years old, and have at least 15 years of experience practicing law. They serve for six-year terms; the Chief Justice cannot be reappointed, but the other justices can.

Below the Supreme Court come appellate courts, stationed in five of the country's major cities. Appellate courts typically consist of a panel of three judges. Below these are district courts, which exist in most of the large cities of South Korea. Below these are branch and municipal courts, positioned all over the country and limited to small claims and petty offenses. Specialized courts also exist for family, administrative, and patent cases.

All courts are under the jurisdiction of the national judiciary; independent local courts are not permitted. Judges through out the system are required to have passed a rigorous training system including a two-year program and two-year apprenticeship. All judicial training is provided through the Judicial Research and Training Institute, and is limited to those who have already passed the National Judicial Examination. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has the power over all court administration, and can recommend court-related legislation to the National Assembly.

Local government

Local autonomy was established as a constitutional principle of South Korea beginning with the First Republic. However, for much of the 20th century this principle was not honored. From 1965 to 1995, local governments were run directly by provincial governments, which were run directly by the national government. However, since the elections of 1995, a degree of local autonomy has been restored. Local magistrates and assemblies are elected in each of the primary and secondary administrative divisions of South Korea, that is, in every province, metropolitan or special city, and district. Officials at lower levels, such as "eup" and "dong", are appointed by the city or county government.

As noted above, local autonomy does not extend to the judicial branch. It also does not yet extend to many other areas, including fire protection and education, which are managed by independent national agencies. Local governments also have very limited policy-making authority; generally, the most that they can do is decide how national policies will be implemented. However, there is some political pressure for the scope of local autonomy to be extended.

Although the chief executive of each district is locally elected, deputy executives are still appointed by the central government. It is these deputy officials who have detailed authority over most administrative matters.

Civil service

The South Korean civil service is large, and remains a largely closed system, although efforts at openness and reform are ongoing. In order to gain a position in civil service, it is usually necessary to pass one or more difficult examinations. Positions have traditionally been handed out based on seniority, in a complex graded system; however, this system was substantially reformed in 1998.

There are more than 800,000 civil servants in South Korea today. More than half of these are employed by the central government; only about 300,000 are employed by local governments. In addition, only a few thousand each are employed by the national legislative and judicial branches; the overwhelming majority are employed in the various ministries of the executive branch. The size of the civil service increased steadily from the 1950s to the late 1990s, but has dropped slightly since 1995.

The civil service, not including political appointees and elected officials, is composed of career civil servants and contract civil servants. Contract servants are typically paid higher wages and hired for specific jobs. Career civil servants make up the bulk of the civil service, and are arranged in a nine-tiered system in which grade 1 is occupied by assistant ministers and grade 9 by the newest and lowest-level employees. Promotions are decided by a combination of seniority, training, and performance review. Civil servants' base salary makes up less than half of their annual pay; the remainder is supplied in a complex system of bonuses. Contract civil servants are paid on the basis of the competitive rates of pay in the private sector.


Elections are overseen by the National Election Commission of South Korea.


*cite book
author = Korea Overseas Information Service
year = 2003
title = Handbook of Korea, 11th ed.
publisher = Hollym
location = Seoul
id = ISBN 1-56591-212-8

ee also

*Government of North Korea
*Politics of South Korea

External links

This list is up-to-date. Some changed its name (not matched with above)
* [, the President office]


* [ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry]
* [ Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy]
* [ Ministry of Construction and Transportation]
* [ Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism]
* [ Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development]
* [ Ministry of Environment]
* [ Ministry of Finance and Economy]
* [ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade]
* [ Ministry of Gender Equality and Family]
* [ Ministry of Public Administration and Security]
* [ Ministry of Government Legislation]
* [ Ministry of Health and Welfare]
* [ Ministry of Information and Communication]
* [ Ministry of Justice]
* [ Ministry of Labor]
* [ Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries]
* [ Ministry of National Defense]
* [ Ministry of Planning and Budget]
* [ Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs]
* [ Ministry of Science and Technology]
* [ Ministry of Unification]

Independent Agencies (President)

* [ Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification]
* [ Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption]
* [ Board of Audit and Inspection]
* [ National Intelligence Service]
* [ Civil Service Commission]
* [ Presidential Commission on Small and Medium Business]
* [ The Ombusman of Korea]
* [ Natioanl Economic Advisory Council] ko icon
* [ National Unification Advisory Council]

Independent Agencies (Prime Minister)

* [ Overseas Information Agency of the Republic of Korea]
* [ Korea Fair Trade Commission]
* [ National Emergency Planning Commission]

* [ Korea National Tax Service]
* [ Korea Customs Service]
* [ Public Procurement Service]
* [ Korea National Stastistical Office]
* [ Korea Meteorological Administration]
* [ Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office]
* [ Military Manpower Administration]
* [ Defence Acquisition Program Administration]
* [ Korea National Police Agency]
* [ National Emergency Management Agency]
* [ Cultural Heritage Administration]
* [ Rural Development Administration]
* [ Korea Forest Service]
* [ Small and Medium Business Administration]
* [ Korean Intellectual Property Office]
* [ Korea Food and Drug Administration]
* [ National Maritime Police Agency]
* [ Multifunctional Administrative City Construction Agency]

Presidential Commissions

* [ Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption]
* [ National Bioethics Committee] ko icon
* [ Presidential Commission on Policy Planning] ko icon
* [ Presidential Commission on Sustainable Development]
* [ Presidential Committee for the Asian Hub-City of Culture]
* [ Presidential Committee on Ageing Society and Population Policy] ko icon
* [ Presidential Committee on Architectural Culture and Construction Technology] ko icon
* [ Presidential Committee on Balance National Development]
* [ Presidential Committee on Education Innovation]
* [ Presidential Committee on Government Innovation and Decentralization]
* [ Presidential Committee on Judicial Reform] ko icon
* [ Presidential Committee on Northeast Cooperation Initiative]
* [ Presidential Committee on Social Inclusion]
* [ Presidential Council on Science and Technology]
* [ Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths] ko icon


* [ National Assembly of the Republic of Korea]


* [ Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea]
* [ Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea]


* [ National Election Commission]

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