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Parliamentary Tension Reaches Boiling Point

Posted December. 20, 2008 03:57,   


The ruling and main opposition parties, which violently clashed over submitting a motion on the free trade agreement with the United States to parliament, continued their dangerous tug-of-war over the handling of controversial bills yesterday.

As both parties are sticking to their respective positions, tension is escalating in parliament ahead of a “legislative war” likely to erupt next week.

At yesterday’s legislative review meeting, Grand National Party floor leader Hong Joon-pyo repeated his party’s hard-line stance, saying, “No time is left to hesitate over the opposition party’s misbehavior or unreasonable demands.”

The ruling party is apparently aware of the parliamentary plenary sessions scheduled for Dec. 23, 29 and 30. If it wants to pass contentious bills within this year, the bills must be reviewed by each standing committee by next week.

Because of this, Hong instructed chief negotiators of each standing committee to convene reviews when lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party leave the Assembly conference hall, even over this weekend.

Taking this as a declaration of war, the Democratic Party reaffirmed its determination to wage an all-out war.

“Even if we lose the battle, we will continue to fight until we hear from the people that we won the war,” said Democratic Party floor leader Won Hye-young. Won held a general meeting of the National Assembly yesterday in the office of the parliamentary speaker, which the opposition party occupied for two days.

The Democratic Party also beefed up its efforts to block the entry of the standing committee. Its lawmakers, which had occupied the committee chairman’s desk to prevent a meeting from taking place, blocked ruling party lawmakers from entering the meeting hall by locking the door, as well as piling furniture around it and the chairman’s desk.

The opposition party’s floor leadership also provided support to each committee. Physical and verbal attacks broke out at standing committee meetings between the ruling party, which tried to convene a meeting, and the Democratic Party, which tried to deter it.

The National Assembly’s Public Administration and Security Committee was planning to review a contentious bill on assembly and protests, but could not after Democratic Party lawmakers and their assistants occupied the meeting hall.

In response, ruling party lawmakers tried to convene a meeting at the legislative review subcommittee’s meeting room. Democratic Party lawmakers swarmed into the room, however, saying, “You snuck into this room like a thief to review the bill.”

The two sides exchanged verbal attacks in the process.

In the case of the National Policy Committee, lawmakers from the Democratic Party and the progressive Democratic Labor Party occupied the meeting room and locked the door. Some 20 lawmakers and their assistants staged a sit-in strike outside the meeting room while holding pickets to prevent the meeting from being held.

As committee chairman Kim Young-sun and ruling party lawmakers protested, knocking on the door and trying to enter the meeting room, opposition party lawmakers and officials blocked them, resulting in a physical clash.

“The Democratic Party is throwing the National Assembly into chaos,” said Grand National Party spokesman Cha Myung-jin.

Democratic Party spokesman Choi Jae-sung, however, hit back by saying, “We’re practically in a state of war because the ruling party declared war.”