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South Korea breaks filibuster record fighting new surveillance bill

Wed 2 Mar 2016

Politicians in South Korea have set a new record for a filibuster – an attempt to time out the passing of new legislation with verbose speeches – in its determination to oppose a new anti-terrorism bill which they believe threatens personal privacy for the country’s citizens.

38 liberal members of the National Assembly spoke for a total of 193 hours in an orchestrated block which began on February 23rd and ended today, with the passing of the bill by 160 parliament members, with one ‘no’ and apparent abstention from the filibusters.

The final speaker, Lee Jong Kul of the Minjoo Party, managed 12 hours and 35 minutes.

The anti-terrorism bill that the lawmakers were opposing will allow wiretap surveillance of suspects and the collection of personal data relating to them. The bill was introduced in the wake of recent nuclear tests by North Korea. President Park Geun-hye has insisted that the new legislation is essential for national security.

One of the filibuster participants read extended passages from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, while others quoted comments on the internet and news articles pertaining to the bill.

During a five-hour leg of the bluster marathon, lawmaker Hong Jong-haak said: “The law not only gives the National Intelligence Service (NIS) unprecedented, unconstrained power to spy on every detail of our lives without our knowledge but also violates freedom of expression.”

The new powers passed in assembly will fall to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, which has already earned the opprobrium of South Korean critics by performing packet tapping on Gmail accounts, as well as accusations that it helped elect Geun-hye by manipulating the presidential election in 2012 – which was also the year when filibustering returned to Korean politics after a law was passed to improve parliamentary debate and forestall the physical violence which had often accompanied it in the past.

The record in the United States for an individual filibuster is retained by U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who spoke for an unbroken 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957, part of a concerted effort that among opposing senators which generated 57 days of pointless loquacity between March 26 and June 19 that year.


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