How Many Times Has the Korean Constitution Been Amended?: Reflections on Constitutional Identity and the Construction of Time

Promulgated 1987, South Korea’s current constitution states in its preamble that this is the ninth revision of the first constitution adopted in 1948. Its immediate predecessor constitution of 1980, however, proclaims that the constitution had been changed three times before. What explains this discrepancy? Drafters of the two constitutions evidently had different ideas as to what counts as constitutional change. Yet, this raises further questions: Is constitutional amendment different from constitutional revision or replacement? How big a change is required before we say that a new constitution has emerged? At a more theoretical level: What sort of temporal continuity is presumed in the idea of constitutional identity? How is constitution-making related to the political desire to control history? Asking these questions will aid us in assessing the distinctiveness of the Korean story of constitutional revision as well as its general implications for theorizing constitutional change.