The President is the head of state and represents the state in international affairs. The President is also the head of the executive branch, and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In case of the President's death or disability, the Prime Minister will temporarily act as the President according to an order of succession provided by law.
The President is elected for a single five-year term by popular vote through universal, equal, direct, secret balloting.
The power and duties of the President are defined in the following six areas. First, the President, as head of state, symbolizes and represents the whole nation in both the governmental system and foreign relations. He receives foreign diplomats, awards decorations and other honors, and performs pardoning functions. Upon inauguration, he is to take the oath of his duties to safeguard the independence, territorial integrity, and continuity of the state, as well as to protect the Constitution. In addition, he is entrusted with the unique duty to pursue the peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula.
Second, the President, in his capacity as chief executive, enforces all laws passed by the legislature and issues orders and decrees for the enforcement of these laws. The President has the full power to direct the Cabinet and oversee a varying number of advisory organs and executive agencies. He is authorized to appoint public officials, including the Prime Minister and heads of executive agencies.
Third, the President, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has extensive authority over military policy, including the power to declare war.
Fourth, the President is chief policy maker and chief lawmaker. He may propose legislative bills to the National Assembly or express his views to the legislature in person or in writing. The President cannot dissolve the National Assembly; rather, it is the National Assembly that may hold the President accountable under the Constitution by means of the impeachment process.
Fifth, the President is vested with extensive emergency powers. In case of internal turmoil, external menace, natural disaster or severe financial or economic crisis, the President can take emergency financial and economic actions or issue orders that have the effect of law. The President can excercise these powers only when there is insufficient time to convene the National Assembly, and the actions or orders are absolutely essential to maintaining national security or public order. The President must subsequently notify, and obtain the concurrence of, the National Assembly. If he is unsuccessful in doing so, the measures will be nullified.
Sixth, the President is also empowered to declare a state of martial law in accordance with the provisions of the law in time of war, armed rebellion, or similar national emergency. The exercise of such emergency power is, however, subject to subsequent approval of the National Assembly.