Anti-brawl law passes Assembly on last day

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Anti-brawl law passes Assembly on last day

In an attempt to end the brawls that have been a hallmark of Korean politics, the National Assembly yesterday passed a new law prohibiting the speaker from directly introducing a bill for voting on the floor.

In a plenary session that began hours later than scheduled, the ruling and opposition parties approved the long-debated measure after a fierce debate. According to the revised National Assembly Act, the speaker of the legislature, whose term will start on May 30, won’t be allowed to directly introduce a bill to a main session unless there is a natural disaster or a national emergency.

The speaker’s authority to directly introduce a bill has been seen as a way for the majority party to railroad legislation through. The violent brawls outside and inside the chamber are the way the minority parties try to block such railroading. They have been dubbed the Korean filibuster.

The brawls, as well as the majority party’s attempts to wield its power without any compromise with minority parties, have become increasingly unpopular with the Korean public, and the politicians know it.

Under the revision, the lawmakers introduced a “fast-track” system to advance stalled bills. A bill will be designated as a fast-track item if, firstly, more than half of all the Assembly’s lawmakers, or a majority of members on a standing committee, request it. Then, more than three-fifths of all lawmakers or more than three-fifths of the members of a standing committee must agree.

A fast-tracked bill will automatically advance to a main voting session after spending 180 days on a standing committee or 90 days on the Legislative and Judiciary Committee.

A filibuster will also be allowed as long as more than one-third of lawmakers agree to it.

Of the 192 lawmakers present for voting, 127 approved the new rules, while 48 opposed and 17 abstained.

Once they were done with it, the lawmakers acted quickly to approve a cluster of other bills in their final voting session before their terms end on May 29, including permitting the 112 police call center to track down mobile phone locations, tougher punishments for foreign fishermen illegally operating in Korea’s territorial waters and allowing supermarkets and convenience stores to sell over-the-counter drugs like aspirin.

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

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