President Moon Jae-in reaffirmed his efforts to delegate more authority to regional governments Thursday, calling for a constitutional amendment that would support such a move.
"Expanding local autonomy through a constitutional change is a task we must complete sooner or later," the president said while meeting with governors and other top officials from 17 provincial and major municipal governments throughout the nation.
The president said there was no difference of opinion between ruling and opposition parties on the need to amend the Constitution to enhance the autonomy of local governments, and he noted that all political parties and their presidential candidates had pledges to push for a Constitutional amendment to that end while campaigning for the May 9 presidential election.
Moon won the presidential by-election caused by the ousting of former leader Park Geun-hye.
The president insisted that rival parties shared the same opinion that a constitutional change must stipulate a decentralization of power.
"Even now, there appear to be no different views on the need to include decentralization when we revise the Constitution," he told the meeting, according to pool reports.
Thursday's meeting was held in Sejong, the country's de facto administrative capital located 120 kilometers south of Seoul. Sejong houses more than a dozen central government ministries and is also a symbol of decentralization and balanced development.
"Expanding the autonomy of local government is what you, mayors and governors, may want more than anyone else, but it's also a necessary task we must complete to enhance the status of local autonomies and regional governments," Moon said.
The president then pressed the rival parties to quickly reach agreement on what they could.
"Should that be the case, I believe there should be no reason (for political parties) to politically clash over a constitutional revision or politicize the issue as long as we place decentralization efforts at the center (of an amendment) and then add other issues over which the ruling and opposition parties have no difference of opinion," he said.
The president earlier said the government may be forced to spearhead the move to amend the Constitution should the rival parties fail to do so before the end of March.
"I believe a constitutional revision must be proposed before the end of March if it is to be put to a vote concurrently with the local elections," he said in a new year's press conference held Jan. 10, when he also noted that a separate vote on a constitutional revision could cost up to 120 billion won (US$112 million).
The local elections are scheduled to be held June 13.