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Clashes Erupt at National Assembly Again

Posted April. 23, 2009 08:54,   


Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee Chairman Park Jin sank into his seat at 9:30 a.m. yesterday, 30 minutes ahead of schedule. He prepared two gavels over fears that one might be taken.

Park was surrounded by five lawmakers of the minor progressive Democratic Labor Party and those from the main opposition Democratic Party. They seemed to take Park’s microphone and gravel as if unsatisfied despite not being members of the committee.

Before beginning the meeting at 10 a.m., Park repeatedly asked, “Please arrange the seats. Lawmakers who do not belong to the foreign affairs committee should move backward.”

Members of opposition parties, however, declined to move.

Before dealing with the motion to ratify the Korea-United States free trade agreement, yesterday’s 18th bill, Park said three or four more times, “Please, keep order. Non-members of the committee can be ordered to leave the room,” but in vain.

In the process, ruling Grand National Party members looked split. Nam Kyung-pil said, “We should not bring shame on ourselves to the world. I hope the chairman will try to maintain order.”

An apparently displeased Lee Sang-deuk, however, said, “Just go ahead.”

Ahn Sang-soo and Lee Beom-kwan urged the chairman to finish the procedures swiftly, with Jeong Jin-seok also saying, “Leave it to the chairman.”

After dealing with the 17th bill, Park issued an ultimatum. "To maintain order, I order aides, spectators and journalists to leave the room,” he said.

After Park began procedures to pass the motion to ratify the agreement, lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties spoke loudly to keep each other in check and argued. Ruling party members urged their opposition counterparts not to touch gavels and opposition members pressed ruling party members not to pass the motion.

When Park asked, “Do you have any questions,” ruling party members answered, “No,” and the motion was passed.

Moon Kook-hyun of the minor Renewal of Korea Party and Park Seon-yeong of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party tried to raise questions but were ignored.

The chairman should have asked, “Does anybody have different opinions?” After Park and ruling party members recognized the mistake, they voted on the motion again in the afternoon.

They managed to form a quorum of 15 lawmakers after calling lawmakers who had left the National Assembly. Song Yeong-seon of the Pro-Park Alliance was the only opposition party member who participated in the re-vote.

The motion is highly likely to be passed at the National Assembly in June. The ruling party said it is consistent with the Jan. 6 agreement among floor leaders since they agreed to ratify the agreement as soon as possible after the launch of a new U.S. administration.

Most Democratic Party members say it will be hard to prevent the motion from being passed now that the committee has passed it. Certain opposition party lawmakers claim they need to hold an all-member committee where all opinions including opposition against the deal can be heard, in accordance with the National Assembly Act.

Businesses welcomed the passage of the motion at the committee and hoped that it will be passed at the general meeting of the National Assembly.

In an official comment, the Korean Employers Federation said, “The Korea-U.S. FTA will play a pivotal role in revitalizing and boosting the Korean economy. It will also help Korea create more jobs via export growth and achieve economic recovery via strengthened competitiveness.”

Park Dae-sik of the Federation of Korean Industries said, “The Korea-U.S. FTA will provide a breakthrough for the Korean economy in the midst of the global economic slowdown and spread of trade protectionism.”

Park Jong-nam of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry said, “The FTA should be ratified and take effect to bring about the expected benefits.”

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