South Korea's parliament is experiencing a extended period of paralysis that is
getting increasing physical. Minority politicians have vowed to block a set of
bills they oppose by any means necessary. So far they are keeping their
About 50 members of South Korea's minority Democratic Party forced
their way into the main voting hall of the country's parliament Friday and
locked themselves in. Their aim was to prevent ruling party members from holding
a plenary session that might have resulted in the passing of bills the
Democratic party opposes.
South Korean television showed images of police
dusting the plenary hall doors for fingerprints, in hopes of narrowing down
which specific Democratic Party members initiated the incursion into the
The Democratic Party has 83 seats in South Korea's 298-member
parliament. The ruling Grand National Party of South Korean President Lee
Myung-bak controls 172 seats and easily outnumbers its opponents. The GNP has
promised to pass a number of controversial measures, including a free trade deal
with the United States.
Last week, clashes broke out as minority lawmakers
sought to force their way into a committee room to disrupt the process of
ratifying the U.S. free trade deal. Security guards opened up fire extinguishers
on opponents of the deal as they hammered away at locked and barricaded doors.
The damaged doors have since been replaced with reinforced steel, in
anticipation of more physical conflict between the parties.
Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun says the National Assembly has turned into a
battleground, and he holds the president to blame.
He says the war now
taking place in the assembly can be defined as a war initiated by President Lee.
He says Mr. Lee is trying to take away the Parliament's role of limiting
Chung and his allies object to several bills they have
labeled "evil." The measures would enhance the ability of law enforcement to tap
domestic phones, consolidate the power of major media companies, and tighten
rules regarding how citizens post messages online. Democratic lawmakers say the
bills put South Korea on a path to the authoritarian days of the country's
Cho Yoon-seon, spokeswoman for the ruling GNP, says it is the
minority Democratic Party that is in the wrong.
She says the DP should
stop destroying public facilities, and start participating normally in getting
bills passed. She adds, the DP should apologize to the people as they showed
contempt for parliamentary process.
It remains to be seen whether ruling
party politicians will choose to engage in dialogue with opponents, or seek a
more muscular approach. There is also a question of whether the conflict will
remain contained within parliamentary buildings, or possibly manifest itself in
broader public demonstrations.