Nonviolence pact by reps could thwart FTA passing

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Nonviolence pact by reps could thwart FTA passing

A “nonviolence movement” led by young ruling-party lawmakers, dedicated to ending brawls and fisticuffs in the National Assembly, could put the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement in jeopardy.

A group of 22 lawmakers, including 14 first-term representatives, vowed at a press conference on Thursday to stay away from legislative sessions that are destined to descend into violence and promised not to run for re-election if they failed to keep their promise.

The lawmakers said they regretted their participation in the violent melee on Dec. 8 that accompanied the passage of the budget bill.

“We will reform the National Assembly, and we urge more lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties to join us,” the lawmakers said in their statement.

In Korea, opposition politicians who know the majority party will be able to pass legislation it disagrees with often resort to violence to stall voting as a kind of filibuster.

Senior members of the group - two four-term lawmakers and six three-term lawmakers - issued a statement yesterday urging opposition parties and civic groups to join their nonviolence campaign.

The campaign is expected to affect controversial bills such as the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. The liberal opposition parties have long criticized the deal, although FTA negotiations initially began during the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration.

Seoul and Washington recently revised the deal and ratification by the Korean legislature is expected in February.

Representative Hong Jung-wook, one of the 22 lawmakers, said last week that although he supports the FTA, the administration must do more to persuade other lawmakers of its merits to avoid violence during the ratification process.

“I will not participate in voting that involves violence,” he said.

Representative Nam Kyung-pil, head of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee, has also said he won’t cooperate with any violent attempts in his committee to push forward the ratification of the revised bill.

“Without us, the GNP won’t have a quorum to open a voting session,” Nam said.

By Ser Myo-ja []
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