Seoul Delays US Trade Pact Vote Amid Violence Fears

Posted November 3rd, 2011 at 3:40 am (UTC-5)
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South Korea’s legislature has postponed a crucial session in which it was expected to take up ratification of a far-reaching trade pact with the United States.

Officials said Thursday that the session now is not expected to take place until November 10 at the earliest. The delay comes amid fears that opposition lawmakers would resort to violence to block passage of the agreement.

The ruling Grand National Party has enough votes in the legislature to easily approve the trade deal, which was ratified by U.S. lawmakers last month. But opposition members have physically blockaded a committee room to prevent the measure being forwarded to the full legislature, and hinted at fisticuffs if the government tries to force it to a vote.

The agreement was originally negotiated in 2007, when the opposition Democratic Party was in power. But the party now fiercely opposes it, saying some South Korean industries will be damaged by the deal.

The trade pact also faced strong opposition in the United States, and was ratified only after U.S. negotiators won additional concessions on trade in automobiles.

Controversial bills have, in the past, prompted fist and furniture-swinging melees in South Korea’s National Assembly.