By Hooyeon Kim
South Korean opposition lawmakers seeking to block a government-backed “anti-terrorism” bill pushed their record-breaking filibuster into a sixth straight day of speeches in the parliamentary chamber on Sunday.
The filibuster began on Tuesday and had continued around the clock for more than 115 hours by Sunday afternoon, making it the world’s longest, according to the Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper.
The marathon filibuster easily surpassed a 58-hour session by 103 members of Canada’s New Democratic Party in 2011.
By Sunday afternoon, 23 lawmakers had spoken for an average of five hours each in opposition to a bill they believe will threaten personal freedoms if passed. Many carried boxes of documents to the podium at the National Assembly, some wearing sneakers.
Earlier this month, President Park Geun-hye’s office called for parliament to pass the stalled security bill, part of tough action taken by her government amid heightened tension with North Korea following its test launch of a long-range rocket this month and its fourth nuclear test last month.
The opposition wants the removal of a provision in the bill that would give South Korea’s intelligence agency authority to monitor private communications.
Lawmakers from the conservative ruling Saenuri party, which controls 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.
Opposition lawmaker Jung Chung-rae spoke for 11 hours and 39 minutes on Saturday, the longest speech of the filibuster thus far. Some lawmakers 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.