Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Ask a Korean! News: Yearly Tradition Happens (Again!) at the National Assembly

Again, because without tradition, democracy is meaningless.

Shoving match to break through the barricade

Glass door near the National Assembly Chairman's office is
a casualty of the yearly brawl (Source)

This year's rendition was not as exciting as the 2007 and 2008 fights (which involved chainsaw, crowbar and a fire extinguisher,) but seems to be more elevated than the 2009 one. It involved a barricaded room (a must, to freeze out the opposition party,) an Assemblyman hospitalized after being hit on the head with a gavel, a barricade made up of furniture to block the hallway. As of now the Assemblymen are girding for the long haul, gathering up blanket to spend the night in the main assembly hall.

The Korean has said this before, and he will say this again:  American Congress has a thing or two to learn from Korean National Assembly. Both legislatures are worthless, but at least Korean one provides a yearly entertainment. It harkens back to the long-lost traditions of learning how a fortified position can be overtaken. Who does not want to see Mitch McConnell clocking Joe Biden, or Nancy Pelosi throwing a shoe at John Boehner? Nobody, that's who. Institute Fight Night Congress now!!

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. Coming soon: Korea's first Pay-Per-View event: fighting politicians! Proceeds to pay for the free lunches that started the whole thing.

  2. No way, Biden would totally own anyone! Those hair plugs gotta be good for something!

  3. I'm sure there is a reason why they need to do this under the procedural rules of the legislature. Wonder whether the yearly spectacle can easily be prevented by changing the rules.

  4. I admit to expecting more after hearing about what happened in 2007 and 2008.

  5. Korean National Assemblymen brawling is a national embarrassment. How can anyone tell middle and high school students in the country, constantly in the news for their own fights in school, to hold back when the people who are supposedly their role models feel it is right to solve disagreements with fistfights?

  6. Hi Ask a Korean!

    I'm an American living in Busan, a big fan of your blog, and I just wanted to say that I love what you said in this little post---"Democracy without tradition is meaningless." Very succinct, very well said, and pretty damn true so far as I know. I was in Busan for the last elections and, thanks to the really unbelievable absurdity of half-naked women dancing and singing on the backs of pickup trucks, actually thought for once that American democracy was not quite so bad as I had imagined.

    There are democratic traditions in America going back four centuries, at least for white, property-owning males; and the endless ridiculousness from our government and especially our congress would suggest that very little has changed, and that true democracy for the world is still a long way off, if it will ever come at all.

    Blablabla---point being, you're an elegant writer, I love your blog, and that (possibly debatable, possibly ironic) sentence just inspired me to let you know.

  7. I don't think the brawl is an embarrasment. If the problem could be solved gently then it would be great. However, at least politicians are doing something.

    Democracy is a method by which one party fight against the other without killing the other, while the admolition of opponent was very common in Joseon dynasty or under the reign of miltary dictatorship.

    The brawling is not gracious but it is much better than silence. Moreover in the political environment of Korea where the opinions are severly divided among people, the silence would mean the very successful opression of the other opinions.

    If western nations have gentle democracies it could mean the opinions of them are not so much different from each other rather than long democratic custom.

    As democracy spreads out, the newborn democracy will suffer such brawls because the opions are no more oppressed as before and the opinions are not easily compromised. This kind of brawl is the thing that should be endured but not that is embarrassed.

  8. I'm sorry, but I beg to differ. Street demonstrations and protests represent the voices of people who have long been suppressed. The houses of government should be where disputes are solved with words. There is an appropriate middle ground between physical fighting and complete silence.

  9. As entertaining as I find the Korean Assembly, Myung Jun has a valid point about the youth of democracy here. Parliamentary democracy is both an imported institution and in its infancy in this country. Anglo-American societies can trace Parliament back to the 13th century and it certainly was not always the staid, deliberative body that it appears today. For example, there is a reason the Speaker of the House carries a scepter (cudgel) and the MPs feign resistance when nominated for this formally dangerous position. Yes, the Speakers used to be armed to the teeth and had to use their side arms to defend themselves from time to time when they made unpopular decisions in the House of Commons. My point is that democracy is evolutionary in nature and we err when we assume that what we see now has always existed. Brawl on Korean pols! Your 17th century British peers would approve!

  10. See also the Caning of Sumner in the 1856 US Congress http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/The_Caning_of_Senator_Charles_Sumner.htm


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