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Protesting South Korean lawmakers form human chain

 South Korean lawmakers of the opposition parties shout slogans in front of the main hall of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, D...
 South Korean lawmakers of the opposition parties shout slogans after they occupied the main hall of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Wedn...

South Korea Brawling Lawmakers

South Korean lawmakers of the opposition parties shout slogans in front of the main hall of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, D...

South Korea Brawling Lawmakers

South Korean lawmakers of the opposition parties shout slogans after they occupied the main hall of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Wedn...

South Korean lawmakers tied themselves together with rope and climbing gear Wednesday, forming a human chain around the Parliament speaker's podium on the sixth day of a sit-in protest.
Legislators from the main opposition Democratic Party have locked themselves inside the National Assembly's main hall since Dec. 26 to prevent the ruling party from ramming through dozens of bills they oppose _ including ratification of a free trade pact with the United States.
With scores of security guards outside the doors and hundreds of police outside the assembly complex, the protesting lawmakers braced for a raid after the parliamentary speaker threatened late Tuesday to send guards in to remove them by force.
Such scenes are not unusual in South Korea, where rival political parties sometimes resort to violence to get their way and use drama as a political tool.
A week earlier, opposition lawmakers used sledgehammers to pound their way into a committee room where ruling party lawmakers were meeting to introduce the bill to ratify the U.S. free trade pact.
That clash ended in violence, with hammers splintering doors and lawmakers inside reportedly fighting back by spraying water from fire extinguishers.
Such tactics have proven effective. In 2004, when the opposition Grand National Party-controlled assembly proposed impeaching then-President Roh Moo-hyun over alleged election infractions, lawmakers from Roh's ruling Uri party staged a similar sit-in at the National Assembly.
Guards ended up dragging the Uri legislators out by force, and the GNP got its wish with Roh's impeachment, although the impeachment was later overturned by the Constitutional Court.
But the GNP's harsh move provoked a public backlash, and the party suffered a defeat in parliamentary elections months later.
With a new, conservative president in power, the GNP is the ruling party and has retained control of the assembly with 172 of 299 seats. But the opposition Democrats, who hold 82 seats, see another chance to humiliate the GNP and President Lee Myung-bak.
Analysts say the opposition party wants to stage a scene in which its lawmakers are forced out of the assembly _ an image that could provoke public anger toward the ruling party and boost the opposition's flagging popularity.
The current assembly session continues until Jan. 8, but the ruling party has said it planned to introduce about 80 bills on New Year's Eve, including the free trade agreement's ratification.
The free trade pact _ backed by Lee and signed last year _ still needs ratification by the South Korean and U.S. legislatures, and Lee's administration is eager for quick action.
The opposition party says the pact should not be approved until the government provides better measures to protect farmers and others expected to suffer from a surge in imports from the U.S.
It also says another bill on media ownership that would let newspapers and private companies own broadcast stations is a way for Lee's conservative government to exert control over broadcasters.
To stop the ruling party, opposition legislators seized control of the assembly's main hall. Outside, more than 160 security officers stood guard while some 1,100 police surrounded the complex.
On Tuesday, assembly speaker Kim Hyong-o, a former member of the ruling party, threatened to send guards into the chambers to haul the legislators out.
On Wednesday evening, rival party leaders agreed to resume negotiations on a compromise in the new year, averting a New Year's Eve blowup.
But unconvinced legislators continued to camp out at the National Assembly. As the rest of Seoul prepared to celebrate the New Year at parties across the capital, the protesting lawmakers dug in with their laptops, bottled water and takeout food.
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Associated Press writer ShinWoo Kang contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-25 18:10 GMT+08:00