Assembly tumult over protest law
Korea’s ruling party and opposition lawmakers are butting heads over a revision to a law that limits the hours during which protests can be held.
The current law bans outdoor public demonstrations from dusk to dawn. Last September, the Constitutional Court ruled the law unconstitutional and ordered the government to revise it by June 30. If the current law isn’t revised by the deadline, all outdoor demonstrations, no matter what time they take place, will be legal.
The ruling GNP has proposed a revision that bans demonstrations from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., saying people’s sleep shouldn’t be disrupted. “What’s the point of protesting when everyone else is sleeping?” asked GNP floor leader Kim Moo-sung yesterday.
The opposition Democratic Party, however, says that is still too strict, and wants to ban outdoor protests from midnight to 6 a.m., and only in residential areas and near military installations. The Labor Party wants outdoor demonstrations allowed 24/7.
The National Assembly’s 24-member Public Administration and Security Committee held a meeting yesterday to debate the revision of the bill. The committee has 13 GNP legislators, seven DP lawmakers and four members from other opposition parties. That means that GNP legislators have the power to pass the bill without the other parties’ consent.
A morning meeting went into recess after DP lawmakers opposed the GNP’s attempt to railroad the bill through. At a subsequent meeting around 2:35 p.m., when committee leader An Kyung-ryul left the room, DP lawmaker Lee Seok-hyun suddenly occupied An’s seat in a bid to disrupt the proceedings, while five fellow DP lawmakers surrounded him to block any attempt to dislodge him.
“Please leave the seat. The ruling and opposition party leaders are still in negotiation,” An said. Lee demanded that An promise the committee wouldn’t try to pass the bill without the opposition members’ consent.
The meeting adjourned and will reconvene tomorrow. “If we don’t pass the revised bill this time, the whole country will become lawless beginning July 1,” said one GNP lawmaker who declined to be named.
By Jung Hyo-sik, Jung Ha-won [firstname.lastname@example.org]