SEOUL - South Korea’s parliament ratified a long-stalled, free-trade agreement with the United States today amid brawling and shouting by some members opposing the pact, including a lawmaker who threw a tear gas canister at the speaker’s podium.
After an evacuation of hundreds, the controversial deal passed 151-7, with most opposition members absent. The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) had called a surprise parliamentary session in order to push it through, taking advantage of its majority status.
Kim Sun-Dong, a member of the minority Democratic Labor Party who set off the canister, repeatedly shouted “No to FTA (Free Trade Agreement)!” and “GNP, aren’t you afraid of history and the people,” as security guards wrestled him out of the floor. Legislators coughed and wiped tears as they rammed the free-trade deal through.
Sledge hammers, water hoses and electric saws were among the items used by opposition members to protest in the past, but this is the first in history tear gas was detonated.
The deal is expected to boost South Korean exports of automobile-related parts, electronics, and textiles, according to economists. But agriculture, fisheries, and chemicals are among the industries facing future disadvantage.
It is the biggest U.S. trade pact since the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement and was approved by the U.S. Congress last month.
Seoyoung Cho and Sooyun Yum contributed to this article.