South Korea passes anti-terror bill

Seoul, March 3 (IANS) South Korea’s parliament on Wednesday passed the country’s first anti-terror bill, with opposition lawmakers leaving the plenary chamber after ending the nine-day marathon speeches.

Among almost 300 parliamentary seats, only 156 ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers and one minority party member participated in a vote on the country’s first anti-terrorism legislation, which was passed through the National Assembly with 156 in favour. One dissenting vote was cast by the minority party member, Xinhua reported.

The bill, which was first brought up in South Korea in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, had repeatedly failed to be enacted due to worries about abuse of power by the country’s spy agency.

Opposition lawmakers launched nonstop speeches to delay the vote on the country’s first anti-terror bill from February 23 when the parliamentary speaker sought to put the bill on a vote with his own authority.

A total of 38 opposition lawmakers participated in the filibuster that ran for 192 hours and 25 minutes through Wednesday night.

Lee Jong-Geol, floor leader of the main opposition Minju Party and the last speaker of the filibuster, set a record for his marathon speech that did not stop for 12 hours and 31 minutes.

The country’s filibuster, invoked for the first time in 38 years, was aimed at blocking the passage of the bill which triggered fears that it may grant excessive power to the National Intelligence Service (NIS).

The anti-terror legislation will allow NIS agents to collect personal information, location and conversation in mobile phones from suspected terrorists, while enabling the agency to track bank accounts and immigration records of the suspects.

Opposition lawmakers had opposed to the bill as it will cause the abuse of power by the NIS, which has a history of spying on civilians and journalists and interfering with politics.

President Park Geun-hye had strongly called on the parliament to pass the anti-terror bill, citing escalating threat of terrorist attacks from the North Korea following its latest rocket launch and nuclear test.

South Korea hails new UN resolution on DPRK

South Korea on Wednesday hailed the adoption of a new UN Security Council resolution on North Korea, calling it the toughest and most effective in UN history.

Seoul’s foreign ministry said in a government statement that it was a resolution including tougher-than-ever sanctions against Pyongyang, expressing a perfect welcome and support toward it, Xinhua reported.

Calling the North Korea’s nuclear test and rocket launch as “intolerable”, the statement said the new UN resolution was an expression of the international community’s firm will to change the DPRK’s “wrong calculations” by making Pyongyang pay a harsh price for its reckless provocations that came in defiance of previous UN resolutions and the international society.

The UN Security Council unanimously approved the new sanctions against North Korea, which conducted its fourth nuclear test on January 6 and went ahead with a long-range rocket launch on February 7.

South Korea vowed to make all necessary efforts, including cooperation with all UN member states, to make the resolution enforced without any setbacks, saying the country will strengthen international cooperation further to encourage Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear programme “completely, verifiably and irreversibly.”

Seoul urged Pyongyang to come to a road to denuclearisation as early as possible by accepting calls from the international society as seen in the fresh resolution, warning that Pyongyang would face more severe consequences if it conducts more extreme provocations.

Seoul said new sanctions against Pyongyang would eliminate loopholes in previous resolutions to focus on cutting off resources to finance North Korea’s nuclear programmes.

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