...if stuff like this happened in our congress.
Photos and article from the New York Times online.
By MARTIN FACKLER
Published: December 18, 2008
TOKYO — The parliamentary battle over a contentious free trade deal in South Korea led to a confrontation on Thursday in which opposition lawmakers used a sledgehammer to knock down the doors of a blockaded room in which a committee was discussing the agreement.
Members of the opposition party were sprayed with fire extinguishers from inside as they tried to enter a parliamentary committee room.
Television footage showed fire extinguishers being sprayed at the opposition lawmakers trying to get into the room . At least one person was shown bleeding from the face.
The members of the opposition Democratic Party were trying to stop the trade agreement with the United States from advancing to the floor of parliament for a final vote. The governing party has been seeking to ratify the trade pact by year’s end, saying it would improve South Korea’s competitiveness and ties with the United States. Opponents say it will hurt South Korean farmers.
Violent clashes in the South Korean parliament, called the National Assembly, are not unheard of, reflecting the nation’s feisty brand of democracy. The trade agreement with the United States has been a particularly thorny issue, after massive demonstrations in Seoul earlier this year against the import of American beef.
Thursday’s assault came after the opposition party had threatened to block the deal by using physical force if necessary. Fearing an attack, members of the foreign affairs committee, under control of the governing Grand National Party, had barricaded themselves inside the room as they met.
Security guards and aides from the governing party stood outside the barricaded doors, where scuffles broke out when a dozen opposition lawmakers showed up. The opposition lawmakers then used at least one sledgehammer and crowbars to tear through the doors, only to be thwarted by piles of furniture thrown up as a second line of defense.
The mayhem failed to prevent the pact from being formally introduced to the committee, a step in the process of bringing it to a full parliamentary vote.
The deal to lower tariffs and other trade barriers was signed last year by negotiators from South Korea and the United States, but cannot take effect until ratified by lawmakers in both nations.
The pact faces stiff opposition in United States Congress, where many fear it could disadvantage struggling American automakers.
"Feisty brand of democracy," indeed!