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Parliamentary Scuffles Reignite Over Media Reform Bills

Posted February. 28, 2009 04:43,   


Scuffles erupted again at the National Assembly yesterday over the ruling camp’s plans to overhaul the media industry.

This led to the cancellation of the plenary session at the Assembly and physical confrontations among lawmakers.

Parliamentary speaker Kim Hyong-o told rival parties not to convene the plenary session at 11 a.m.

He hinted at invoking his authority to cancel the session under mounting pressure from the ruling Grand National Party, which asked for more time to deliberate pending bills in standing committees.

Kim’s real intent, however, is believed to be preventing main opposition Democratic Party members from occupying the main chamber of the Assembly.

In response, the Democratic Party held a rally in front of the main hall of parliament. Party members blasted Kim for his unilateral cancellation of the session and the ruling party’s introduction of the media ownership bill to the standing committee.

Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun said the speaker acted in collusion with the ruling party to unilaterally push through disputed bills.

The Assembly secretariat mobilized security personnel to keep in check Democratic Party members except lawmakers as they began a sit-in protest at 1 p.m.

In this confrontation, opposition members clashed with security guards at the entrance of the National Assembly building.

Despite the renewed violence, the ruling party in an emergency meeting decided to railroad pending bills in this extra parliamentary session.

“If we don’t handle the media ownership bill in this extra session, the Democratic Party will eventually cripple parliament since it’s trying to connect it with the supplementary budget in April, the non-regular workers bill in June, and budget spending in September,” said ruling party floor leader Hong Joon-pyo.

Ruling party leaders confirmed the party’s stance on railroading the media ownership bill in the emergency meeting of its supreme council members. They then lobbied speaker Kim to action.

Kim, however, remained silent on his decision though ruling party leaders expressed their willingness to submit a revised version of the media ownership bill.

koh@donga.com mindy@donga.com