SEOUL – South Korea’s opposition members of parliament on Wednesday ended a record-breaking filibuster to block an “anti-terrorism” Bill sponsored by their conservative rivals, more than a week after they began taking turns making marathon speeches.
The filibuster began on Tuesday evening last week, when the opposition took the floor to debate the bill backed by President Park Geun-hye that they say, if passed, will threaten freedom of communication and privacy.
By the time it ended on Wednesday evening, 38 MPs had spoken for an average of five hours each, the longest for more than 12.5 hours without a break.
The round-the-clock filibuster easily surpassed a 58-hour session by 103 members of Canada’s New Democratic Party in 2011.
Park’s office in February called for parliament to pass the stalled security bill, part of tough action by her government amid heightened tension with North Korea following its nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch.
The security bill proposes to set up a new anti-espionage unit reporting to the chief of the country’s spy agency and will coordinate surveillance, analysis and investigation into leads that point to a possible attack.
The opposition objects to greater power for the spy agency and seeks to scrap a bill provision that would authorise the intelligence agency to monitor private communications.
Conservative ruling Saenuri party members, with 157 of the assembly’s 293 seats, have expressed dismay that the speech-making is causing other bills to be delayed ahead of parliamentary elections due in April.
The decision to end the filibuster came after some senior opposition party members expressed concern that they might be seen as holding up other bills.
Some opposition MPs have come to tears during their speeches, while one of them sang and another read aloud from George Orwell’s “1984,” according to a South Korean newspaper.