The constitution should allow the president a second term in office and the terms themselves should be longer, according to President Park Geun-hye. Presidents are currently limited to a single five-year term.
In a speech to parliament on Monday, Park called on parliament to create a special committee to discuss revising the constitution, and called for the change to be completed before her term ends.
The president said the current system makes it difficult for the government to maintain policy continuity, including those involving its North Korean neighbor which frequently issues threats against it.
"Through the single-term presidency, it is difficult to maintain policy continuance, see results of policy and engage in unified foreign policy," she said. "I've reached a conclusion that we can no longer delay discussing amending the constitution, which was also my campaign promise, to break down limits we face in the big picture for the Republic of Korea's sustainable development."
Park's term expires in February 2018. She insisted that a second term would not apply to her but to her successors.
For years South Korean politicians have talked of amending the country's constitution to allow the president to run for a second term, but now the call has come from President Park Geun-hye.
For and against the change
The political opposition, which in the past has supported amending the constitution, rejected Park's call, saying it would not participate in any discussions on the subject. Her opponents accused her of trying to divert attention from her plunging poll numbers amid corruption scandals.
"What matters is the timing. Why does President Park propose a constitutional change at a time when she faces so many problems (involving her associates)?" asked Kim Sung-Joo, an honorary professor at Seoul's Sungkyunkwan University.
South Korea adopted the current system in 1987, ending decades of military-backed dictatorships, including one by Park's father, Park Chung-hee. Under the current system, a president is barred by law from seeking a second term.
bik/jm (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)