Assembly melees have rules of engagement too

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Assembly melees have rules of engagement too

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DP lawmaker Kim Sung-gon apologizes for Wednesday’s violence with 3,000 bows. By Kim Kyung-bin

The National Assembly’s tradition of failing to pass budget bills before the statutory deadline was finally broken after eight years on Wednesday. But the Korean tradition of flinging chairs and choreographed fisticuffs over sensitive legislation lived on, and lawmakers yesterday expressed regret for once again resorting to violence.

Democratic Party Representative Kim Sung-gon yesterday gave 3,000 deep bows in the National Assembly building’s main lobby to express his remorse. “An immature democracy, failure to divide political power among an executive, a legislature and a judiciary, and voting based on party lines and not individual lawmaker’s convictions are the reasons for the National Assembly’s violence,” he said.

Ruling Grand National Party members also made self-reflections. “When the Grand National Party becomes a minority party, we must follow the majority rule and extinguish violence from the legislature,” GNP Representative Kwon Young-se said. “All the political parties are losers today.”

The National Assembly secretariat yesterday began investigating the damage from this week’s mayhem. A reinforced glass door and a wooden door into the main chamber were damaged.

But while some fixtures in the National Assembly building were broken, some unwritten rules of parliamentary melees remained intact. In Korean political scuffles, only lawmakers can fight other lawmakers, and so security guards of the legislature are unable to intervene.

The main chamber is only accessible to lawmakers, so rival parties’ staffers had to slug each other outside. When some staffers were pushed into the main chamber by the crowd, they scurried to get out of the room.

The most talked-about fight was between GNP Representative Kim Sung-hoi and DP Representative Kang Gi-jung.

Kim suffered an injured nose that will take two weeks to heal. Kang had eight stitches around his mouth.

Both lawmakers are known for violent pasts. During last year’s pandemonium, Kim, a former rugby team captain in the military academy, broke metal chains on an entrance door with his bare hands.

After melees in 2008, the GNP proposed a bill to ban violence inside the legislature but it is still up in the air.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongnag.co.kr]

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