Photographers' Blog

Fighters in the ring of the law

December 13, 2010

A lawmaker (C) from opposition parties climbs onto the parliament chairman's seat as they scuffle with lawmakers (L) of the ruling Grand National Party to prevent them from passing new bills including the new year's budget bill at the National Assembly plenary session hall in Seoul December 8, 2010.  REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

As the year winds down in Seoul, highly-educated fighters dressed in business attire gather for a dramatic showdown. A sky-blue colored dome theater is the venue, and this year, it was again prepared for the upcoming event. Chairs, tables and other office furniture are stacked up on the floor to block people from entering rooms. Police officers stand guard as they surround the domed theater to prepare for any emergency situations. There are ambulances and medics. All entrances to the theater are closed, with tight security allowing only those with prior authorization to enter.

Police officers stand guard in front of the National Assembly in Seoul December 8, 2010, while lawmakers and their aides from the ruling party and the opposition party scuffle.  REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

A member of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) makes his way past a barricade of furniture, created by his party to block lawmakers of the ruling Grand National Party and their aides, near an entrance of the main conference hall of parliament in Seoul December 8, 2010.  REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

The match begins. Hundreds of people, who don’t look like mixed martial arts fighters, gather in front of the gate of the main event room. They are defenders. They discuss and plan their strategies. Chanting “Keep the position,” they form scrimmages. The opponent’s fighters roll up into the hall. The offenders also make a plan on how to break through defenders’ scrimmages. They stand ready to rush. Somebody from the attackers shouts “Let’s go.” All of the offenders including dozens of women make a dash. There’s pushing and shoving. The hall is filled with screams and shouts. Camera flashes are fired at them. It’s like a red carpet ceremony. Some fighters fall and collapse. One wounded person cries with pains. Immediately medics come and take her to a hospital.

Members of the ruling Grand National Party (L) scuffle with members of the main opposition Democratic Party who were blocking entry into the main conference hall of parliament, in Seoul December 8, 2010.   REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

A security guard stands behind cracked glass at the main conference hall of parliament, after a clash between members of the ruling Grand National Party and members of the main opposition Democratic Party, in Seoul December 8, 2010.    REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

When the bell rings to signal half time, both sides are separated for bracing up. Broken glasses, stray shoes, split ID cards and many belongings are scattered around the hall. A huge glass door at the main entrance is unsightly broken. All done? No! It was just the first round. There is more excitement to come. Now we are moving to the main theater, also known as ‘National Assembly plenary session hall.’ From the comfortable seats in the gallery, we can watch the main event.

Lawmakers (L and bottom L) of the ruling Grand National Party scuffle with lawmakers of opposition parties to prevent them from blocking the parliament chairman's entrance at the National Assembly plenary session hall in Seoul December 8, 2010.   REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

The terms of victory are simple. It is all about taking over the speaker’s seat. The ensuing fight is similar to the one during the first round. There are two sides; one wants to keep their position and another tries to break them. Dozens of defenders stand around the speaker’s seat. Offenders slowly tighten their circular formation around the defenders. The offenders rush and dispose of the defenders one by one. Shouting and screaming echoes everywhere. Water bottles and paper signs fly over them. Aged and experienced participants sitting at the back side enjoy the situation and exchange jokes. Finally the winner of the 2010 sky-blue colored dome match is the offenders.

Cha Myung-jin (C), one of the lawmakers of the ruling Grand National Party, talks with fellow lawmakers after he scuffled with lawmakers from opposition parties at the National Assembly plenary session hall in Seoul December 8, 2010.   REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

Lawmakers of opposition parties help their fellow lawmaker (top) who tries to escape as they scuffle with lawmakers of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) at the National Assembly plenary session hall in Seoul December 8, 2010.  REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

Where was this? Who are the fighters? I’m sorry to say it was the National Assembly and the participants were the country’s lawmakers and their legislative aides. They are lawmakers, not professional wrestlers or comedians. It looks like fun if you’re just watching this event on television. But this was a major political incident that warranted close news coverage. The honorable fighters normally continue their fighting for several days and nights. This year I was lucky. It finished in just one day. One local paper reported it as an international disgrace, carrying a Reuters Picture Highlight page of the event. I believe that it was indeed a disgrace. But the show will go on at the end of next year.

A lawmaker (C) of the main opposition Democratic Party tries to block a vice speaker of the National Assembly from passing new bills as security guards and the ruling Grand National Party's lawmakers block him at the National Assembly main chamber in Seoul July 22, 2009.  REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

South Korean lawmakers from the opposition parties shout slogans as they surround the seat of the Parliament chairman to object to the passing of a 2010 state budget, which includes the Four River Project budget, during the plenary session at the National Assembly in Seoul December 31, 2009.  The placards read, "Objection to the Four River Project".  REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

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