Assembly passes counterterrorism bill, new election map

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Assembly passes counterterrorism bill, new election map

A long-delayed counterterrorism bill was passed Wednesday night, after a historic nine-day filibuster by opposition lawmakers ended.

The National Assembly held a voting session around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday after the Minjoo Party’s floor leader, Rep. Lee Jong-kul, ended his speech to conclude the filibuster. The counterterrorism bill, sponsored by the ruling Saenuri Party, was voted on and approved. Only the Saenuri lawmakers attended the voting, while the opposition lawmakers walked out of the main floor to protest it.

The Saenuri Party currently occupies 157 seats in the 293-member National Assembly, enough to hold a vote alone and pass a bill. Of the 157 lawmakers who attended the voting, 156 supported the counterterrorism bill and one opposed.

The newly established law against terrorism establishes a counterterrorism center inside the Prime Minister’s Office and gives the National Intelligence Service (NIS) a mandate to collect information. The NIS is given access to financial information and authority to eavesdrop and wiretap communications of possible terror suspects.

The opposition claims it gives too much authority to the NIS, which has persistently involved itself in domestic politics. Following the protests, the Saenuri Party agreed to add clauses in which the NIS must inform the prime minister before or after exercising the investigative right.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the ruling and opposition parties and the government have repeatedly attempted to create a counterterrorism law. No vote, however, has ever taken place until Wednesday, due to concerns from lawmakers that the NIS would abuse its emboldened power for domestic surveillance.

The Park Geun-hye administration and the Saenuri Party recently renewed their push, citing escalated threats from North Korea. The contentious bill was introduced to a vote by Speaker Chung Ui-hwa on Feb. 23, and the opposition Minjoo Party immediately started a filibuster to stop a vote. After 192 hours and 26 minutes of speech rally, the vote finally took place Wednesday night.

The North Korea human rights bill was also passed Wednesday night. It took 11 years for the bill to be voted on and passed since it was first presented.
A long-overdue electoral map for the April 13 general election was also approved.

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