AFTER weeks of stalling, South Korea’s parliament at last has ratified the country’s Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) with America, “Korus”. After calling a surprise vote to catch opponents of the deal off-guard, the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) managed to force it through without the kind of brawl that many were expecting. There was no parliamentary brawl per se, that is—and only a bit of physical scuffling.
What caught almost everyone off-guard was the tear-gas canister that was detonated in the debating chamber. South Korean politicians exhibit a great deal of flair when it comes to parliamentary fisticuffs; makeshift battering rams and chainsaws have made appearances, the better to break down doors that might be blockaded by members of an opposing party. Tuesday’s action though, which came courtesy of the Democratic Labour Party’s own Kim Seon-dong, raises the bar on outrageous conduct (the incident was captured on video by GNP member Jung Ok-nim).
Though the left-wing minority opposition DLP ought to feel most embarrassed, the GNP itself is unlikely to be celebrating today’s victory too loudly. They could have pushed Korus through several weeks ago, but continuing concerns among voters over income inequality and youth unemployment have seen the political pendulum making an unusually pronounced leftward swing. With parliamentary elections due in April, many GNP members fear losing their seats.
According to The Economist, "several thousand" were protesting outside as well. The video page translates to "Ah! Pepper Diet, abusive Parliment", where you can watch the whole scene unfold.
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