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5 Filibusters South Korea Outdid This Week

This week, South Korea beat out these notable filibusters, setting a world record.

Lee Jong-Kul (C), floor leader of South Korea's main opposition Minjoo Party, speaks as the last speaker of marathon filibuster to call for revision of disputed anti-terrorism bill at the podium of the National Assembly chamber in Seoul on March 2, 2016. South Korean opposition lawmakers on March 2 abandoned a record-breaking filibuster aimed at blocking a bill granting greater surveillance powers to the national spy agency.  AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE / AFP / JUNG YEON-JE        (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
Lee Jong-Kul (C), floor leader of South Korea's main opposition Minjoo Party, speaks as the last speaker of marathon filibuster to call for revision of disputed anti-terrorism bill at the podium of the National Assembly chamber in Seoul on March 2, 2016. South Korean opposition lawmakers on March 2 abandoned a record-breaking filibuster aimed at blocking a bill granting greater surveillance powers to the national spy agency. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE / AFP / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

At 2:30 a.m. local time last Wednesday, Feb. 24, South Korean legislator Eun Soo-mi began a 10-hour monologue on the floor of the National Assembly in Seoul. When opponents tried to shout her down, she didn’t raise her voice in response but simply asked for them to “please apologize” before continuing her speech.

Eun was one of dozens of opposition lawmakers who participated in a record-breaking 192-hour filibuster, which ended Wednesday, March 2. The week’s highlights included 10- and 12-hour-long speeches as the members of the Assembly tried to block a bill that would expand the power of South Korea’s intelligence agency. Joining forces with smaller opposition parties, Eun’s opposition Minjoo Party says the bill, which has been languishing in parliament since 2001, could open the door to the National Intelligence Service violating citizens’ rights. However, the National Assembly approved the bill after the filibuster ended on Wednesday.

Lawmakers around the world have long used filibusters to block legislation by making lengthy speeches and refusing to yield the floor in order to prevent a vote.

South Korea’s is the longest recorded filibuster to date. Here are some it prevailed over:

Hong Kong: Lawmakers stalled for more than three weeks in 2012 to block a bill that would prevent politicians from running for office for six months after resigning from their posts. The filibuster was finally defeated when the president of the Legislative Council invoked a controversial rule that allows him to act in situations for which there is no official procedure.

Canada: In 2011, the progressive New Democratic Party launched a 58-hour filibuster against a bill in the House of Commons that ordered 48,000 striking postal workers back to work and required binding arbitration. The speeches were not enough to stop the bill, which was approved by the Senate days later.

United States: In 1957, Sen. Strom Thurmond, then a Democrat from South Carolina, filibustered the Civil Rights Act for more than 24 hours. According to the Village Voice, he avoided “defeat by the toilet” by peeing into a bucket while keeping one foot on the Senate floor. Despite Thurmond’s efforts, the bill passed into law, and he later switched parties to become a Republican.

Iran: In 1949, resisting Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s attempts to push through an oil agreement that would have retained British control over the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the small opposition party filibustered with four days of speeches. It ultimately ran out the clock on the legislative session so that the agreement could not pass.

Northern Ireland: Independent Unionist Tommy Henderson spoke for close to 10 hours in an attempt to block an appropriations bill in 1936. He finished at nearly 4 a.m., at which point he reportedly hitched a lift home in a newspaper delivery van, rather than accept a ride from fellow lawmakers.

Photo credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

Megan Alpert is a fellow at Foreign Policy. Her previous bylines have included The Guardian, Guernica Daily, and Earth Island Journal. Twitter: @megan_alpert

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