The Confused Person’s Guide to the filibuster against the anti-terrorism bill


In an attempt to counter the proposed anti-terrorism bill, the Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK) began a filibuster in the National Assembly. Beginning at 7 p.m. on Feb. 23, the 193 hour long filibuster involved the opposition of 38 minority party representatives. For all the confused person(s) out there, here are some answers to important questions about this unprecedented South Korean filibuster.

What is a filibuster?
A filibuster is a parliamentary procedure in which debate about a proposed piece of legislation is indefinitely extended, allowing individuals or groups of lawmakers to talk about the bill endlessly and delay the vote. Minority parties in legislature often use filibusters to obstruct the passing of a bill when they lack the numbers to prevent the vote otherwise.

The South Korean National Assembly has had a history of conflict. Lawmakers of South Korea have even resorted to violent methods that include but are not limited to: shoving congressmen, causing verbal conflict, and throwing raw eggs within the National Assembly.

This is the first filibuster to be held in 43 years, as the revision of the National Assembly Law in 2012 allowed unlimited debate on any bill that was proposed to the National Assembly.

Who are the parties involved?
The two main parties of the South Korean government are the liberal MPK and the conservative Saenuri Party. Currently, the Saenuri Party holds the majority of the seats in the National Assembly. Along with the MPK, minority parties such as the Justice Party and the People’s Party are also participating in this filibuster.

What is the anti-terrorism bill?
Much like USA PATRIOT Act, the proposed anti-terrorism bill allows the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the Korean equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency, to collect communications information, screen and prevent bank activity, and regulate entry and exit from the country for all “potential terrorists.” Concerns for this bill are potential violations of privacy and abuse of federal power.

What are the practical applications of the anti-terrorism bill?
If the anti-terrorism bill is passed, the NIS will have the right to wiretap private conversations, including communication through services like KakaoTalk. The NIS will also be able to have access to private CCTV’s and black box footage.

What are the stances on this bill?
The MPK believes that giving the NIS this power will potentially result in abuse of power and violations of human rights. Currently, the NIS plays the role of an intelligence-gathering agency. However, if the bill does pass, the NIS will be given national investigative powers in addition to intelligence-gathering rights, expanding the reach of the NIS.

The Saenuri Party, on the other hand, supports the bill, believing that NIS activity will not affect normal citizens but only serve to strengthen the security of the nation by investigating those “under suspicion of involvement in a terrorist group,” according to Saenuri lawmaker Cheol-woo Lee.

Following the Paris terror attacks, President Park stated on Dec. 8, 2015 that South Korea “cannot remain oblivious to the situation of terror and not pass the [anti-terrorism] bill.” According to the Hankyorae, escalating North Korean threats also seem to have contributed to the urgency of the bill. In comparison, the US’ justification for the surveillance proposed in the PATRIOT Act was based on the 9/11 attacks.

Is an anti-terrorism bill necessary?
The answer from the MPK is “no.” South Korea already has many laws regarding intelligence and counterterrorism, including the “National Anti-Terrorism Guidelines” that establishes National Terrorism Countermeasure Meetings. During his speech to the National Assembly on Feb. 18, lawmaker Kwangjin Kim questioned Prime Minister Kyo-an Hwang, asking if he knew who the leader of this National Terrorism Countermeasure Meetings was. Prime Minister Hwang responded that he “did not know exactly.”

His answer strengthened the MPK’s argument that the counterterrorism acts already in use were not being utilized effectively, and further weakened the arguments of the urgency argued by the Saenuri Party .

What were the consequences of the filibuster?
Fearing negative responses from citizens, the MPK chose to give up the filibuster on March 2. They instead proposed an alternative bill, which mainly clarified the boundaries of what a “terrorist” meant and established a checks and balances system between the NIS and the National Assembly. However, this alternative was voted against and nullified by the majority Saenuri party. All of the MPK and People’s Party lawmakers left the voting chamber in protest soon after.

After the filibuster came to an end, the original, unedited anti-terrorism bill passed with the entirety of the majority party voting for the bill.