It’s now well past midnight in South Korea – which means that a filibuster that started last Tuesday is on its way to lasting for a full week. Opposition legislators have now spoken for some 150 hours straight, holding up a bill that would give new surveillance powers to South Korea’s spy agency.
The filibuster’s hours seem numbered, however, with the Yonhap news agency saying that leaders of the main opposition party have now decided to end the filibuster. They’re expected to hold a news conference about the move at 9 a.m. Tuesday, local time (7 p.m. ET).
The filibuster began last Tuesday night, according to Korean media.
In an attempt to block the bill, more than 20 lawmakers from the opposition Minjoo Party of Korea have taken turns at the podium, Yonhap reports. One of them set a new record for filibustering in South Korea’s National Assembly, only to have a colleague break her record.
Rep. Eun Soo-mi was the first to go ultra-long last week. After two of her colleagues had addressed the chamber, Eun started a speech at 2:30 a.m. that didn’t finish until 12:48 p.m., according to The Korea Times.
With a total time of 10 hours and 18 minutes, Eun’s speech beat a record that had stood since 1969, according to Korean media. But that mark was eclipsed over the weekend, when another MPK member, Rep. Jung Cheong-rae, put in a nearly 12-hour speech (11 hours and 39 minutes).
If you’re wondering about the longest filibuster speech in U.S. history, that mark is held by Sen. Strom Thurmond, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes in his fight against the Civil Rights Act of 1957. In second place: Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, who in 1986 spoke for 23 hours and 30 minutes about a military funding bill.
As for the legislation that has sparked such deep resistance, The Korea Times reports, “The bill, if enacted, will allow the spy agency to collect a wide range of personal data ― some without a court warrant ― including phone records of those suspected of posing a security threat.”
The bill has the backing of the ruling conservative Saenuri Party, which controls more than half of the assembly’s 293 seats.
We’ve been monitoring the National Assembly today – including the moment when a member of the MPK was asked to suspend her speech for a moment, to allow for a staff changeover in the chamber. With a fresh presiding officer and sign language translator taking up their posts for an overnight shift, she then resumed her speech.