Asia

South Korean MPs 'set world filibuster record'

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Media captionOpposition MPs took turns speaking at the podium for five hours at a time

South Korean opposition lawmakers have set what appears to be a new world record for a combined filibuster after speaking for 192 hours.

Nearly nine days of non-stop speeches included rambling monologues and long chunks of George Orwell's novel 1984.

Some of the MPs wore trainers to help them stay on their feet for hours.

They wanted to block an anti-terror bill they said put personal freedoms at risk, but failed. The bill was passed hours after the filibuster ended.

A Canadian party had set the previous world record for combined filibustering, notching up 57 hours in 2011.

The art of the filibuster: How to talk for 24 hours straight

Filibustering is a parliamentary delaying tactic by which MPs drag out speeches to the end of the allocated time, so that no vote can be held.

South Korea's marathon attempt was spearheaded by the main opposition party Minjoo which was joined by other smaller parties, and began last Tuesday, 23 February.

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Image caption Some lawmakers came with large stacks of articles and wore trainers for their lengthy speeches
Image copyright EPA
Image caption The parliament chair was spotted dozing off during the marathon session

As well as some lawmakers being spotted wearing trainers, others reportedly refrained from drinking water so that they could cut down on loo breaks in order to keep on speaking.

Tactics employed also included reading out lengthy academic articles in full as well as news stories and internet comments.

In all 38 lawmakers are reported to have taken part.


Filibustering around the world

  • One of the longest individual filibusters in history came in 1957, when US Senator Strom Thurmond spoke for more than 24 hours against civil rights reforms
  • Texas state Senator Wendy Davis spoke for more than 10 hours in 2013 to block a bill that would shut most abortion clinics in the US state
  • In December 2010 Austrian Green MP Werner Kogler made a speech lasting 12 hours and 42 minutes
  • In 1935 US Louisiana Democrat Huey Long tried to defeat a bill by speaking for more than 15 hours, reciting recipes for Roquefort salad dressing and fried oysters
  • In 1936 the Independent Unionist MP Tommy Henderson spoke for almost 10 hours straight in the Parliament of Northern Ireland

Jung Cheong-rae spoke for 11 hours 39 minutes and Minjoo floor leader Lee Jong-Kul ended the filibuster with a speech of more than 12 hours.

They would have succeeded if they had managed to hold out until the end of the parliamentary session at midnight on 10 March.

But as the days wore on they faced increasing public criticism, as the filibuster was delaying the passage of bills on North Korean human rights and electoral districts for April's general election.

The ruling Saenuri Party has a majority of seats in parliament and nearly 160 members voted for the bill, with one against it, the Associated Press reported. Opposition lawmakers abstained, reports said.

President Park Geun-hye condemned the filibuster as "nothing more than a dereliction of duty".

The legislation allows intelligence services to collect a wide range of personal information - including phone records - on anyone deemed to pose a security risk.

Opposition parties said it would violate privacy rights and could be used to stifle political dissent.

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