The main opposition party ended its vote-blocking marathon filibuster Wednesday, opening the door for the normalization of parliament that has been paralyzed due to the political standoff over a government-backed anti-terrorism bill.
Lee Jong-kul, floor leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, stood at the podium of the National Assembly chamber as the last speaker, putting an end to the marathon monologues that started on Feb. 23.
"Everyone participated with enthusiasm," Lee said, reiterating that the bill infringes upon the privacy rights of the citizens.
A total of 39 lawmakers took turns speaking around the clock in opposition to the bill, claiming it would give too much power to the intelligence agency. The legislators took their time reading related bills or academic papers on privacy infringement.
"In the past, (the military) governments persecuted political dissidents with the national security law. And from now on, the government will clamp down on political opponents under the pretext of the anti-terrorism law," Lee said.
In the last minutes of his 12-hour speech, Lee cited the names of the 38 lawmakers who had preceded him on the podium with tears in his eyes.
Lee spoke a total of 12 hours and 31 minutes before leaving the podium, breaking the record for the country's longest parliamentary speech set by his colleague, Rep. Jung Chung-rai, who talked for 11 hours and 39 minutes.
"We did our best (to stop the passage of the law). But we fell far short of what was needed (to thwart it)," Lee, looking exhausted, told reporters following his filibuster.
The party leadership initially promised to halt the delaying tactic on Tuesday on concerns that the indefinite speeches, if prolonged, could cause public backlash over the delay in the parliamentary endorsement of several important bills.
Lawmakers will vote on the anti-terrorism bill during a plenary session scheduled for later on Wednesday.
It is very likely that the bill will be passed, as the ruling Saenuri Party controls 157 seats in the 293-member National Assembly.
President Park Geun-hye has repeatedly called on the National Assembly to pass the stalled bill to better protect the lives of South Koreans, citing a string of attacks around the world and threats from North Korea.
The opposition bloc, however, raised concerns over breaches of privacy such as allowing the National Intelligence Service to collect personal data on anyone suspected of posing a threat to national security.
Lawmakers will also pass a bipartisan deal on redrawing electoral districts for the upcoming general elections in April.
The Saenuri Party and Minjoo Party were in agreement to hold a plenary session to deliberate the deal on remapping electoral districts for the April 13 polls.
Separately, a bill aimed at improving North Korea's human rights condition will also be taken to the floor for a vote.
If passed, the North Korean human rights bill will end some 11 years of partisan bickering over how best to influence Pyongyang to change.
Among other things, the bill calls for a concerted effort to improve the North's human rights situation and set up a center tasked with investigating human rights abuses. (Yonhap)