중앙데일리

Melee ensues as FTA advances

Grand Nationals slip into room and block door, sparking rage   PLAY AUDIO

Dec 19,2008
A Democrat tries to take down a barricade with a sledgehammer in an attempt to enter the conference room of the National Assembly’s foreign affairs and trade committee. Grand Nationals occupied the room beforehand to push forward the ratification bill of the free trade agreement with the United States.By Kim Hyung-soo

The Grand National Party managed to take the first step yesterday to ratify the free trade agreement with the United States as liberal lawmakers used hammers, electric saws and makeshift water cannons to block the move.

The conservative governing party has said it wants to ratify the trade accord before the end of this year. The first step to do so was putting the ratification bill on the table of the foreign affairs and trade committee of the National Assembly. The bill eventually needs to advance to the main floor of the legislature.

The Grand National Party had said it would submit the ratification bill to the committee yesterday at 2 p.m. to have it ready for an assembly vote preferably next week.

Several GNP lawmakers slipped into the committee conference room around 7 a.m. and locked the door. About an hour later, Democratic Party lawmakers arrived and tried to enter the room, but failed.

Throughout the morning, scuffles took place in the hallway outside the conference room. As the situation worsened, Park Jin, a GNP representative who heads the committee, asked the National Assembly’s security guards to block the Democrats from forcibly entering the room.

Democratic Party lawmakers and officials tried to use hammers and electric saws to destroy the door, but the Grand Nationals barricaded themselves in with sofas and desks. Democrats even used fire hydrants as water cannons, while the Grand Nationals sprayed fire extinguishers from inside to repel the invaders.

Despite desperate efforts, the opposition lawmakers failed to enter the conference room when the deliberations started at 2 p.m. It only took three minutes for the 11 Grand National lawmakers to put the ratification bill on the table and advance it to the legislative review subcommittee - the last step before the main vote.

The quorum to open the meeting for the 31-member foreign affairs and trade committee is six lawmakers.

Seventeen GNP lawmakers are on the committee, while the Democrats have nine members.

“Today will be remembered as the day that the National Assembly was insulted,” said Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun. “We must do everything to prevent the legislative coup.”

Not only the liberal opposition Democratic and Democratic Labor parties but also the conservative Liberty Forward Party said the presentation of the bill to the committee is invalid because the Grand Nationals had ignored procedures.

Park, the head of the trade committee, issued a statement after the meeting:

“I have opened the meeting as a quorum of the committee was present,” Park said. “I placed the bill on the table at the scheduled time and referred the matter to the legislative review subcommittee.”

Park said the ratification of the FTA is a matter of grave concern that will decide Korea’s future. “It is time for the ruling and opposition lawmakers to sit down and seriously discuss the issue,” Park said.

If the FTA bill moves to the main floor for voting, the GNP has enough lawmakers to ratify it alone. The party commands 172 seats in the 299-member legislature.

The Democratic Party said in the evening that it will file an injunction with a local court to nullify the ratification bill’s approval at the trade committee.

The party also said it will ask prosecutors to investigate Park and National Assembly officials for blocking its lawmakers on the committee from attending the meeting.

About 20 DP lawmakers temporarily occupied the office of National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyung-o for allegedly aiding the GNP’s move through the use of security guards. Kim denied any involvement, but the Democrats began a sit-in outside his office as evening fell.


By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]






dictionary dictionary | 프린트 메일로보내기 내블로그에 저장