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(3rd LD) Opposition party to end record-breaking filibuster

All Headlines 15:45 March 01, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with Park's speech)

SEOUL, March 1 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition Minjoo Party will put an end to an ongoing, record-breaking filibuster aimed at blocking a government-backed anti-terrorism bill later on Tuesday, the party's floor leader said.

More than 30 opposition lawmakers have stood at the podium at the National Assembly chamber since Feb. 23 and took turns delivering speeches in opposition to the bill that they claim would give too much power to the intelligence agency.

"The Minjoo (Party) plans to wrap up an indefinite discussion sometime today," Lee Jong-kul, the party's floor leader, said.

Lee further said he will postpone a press conference to officially announce the decision until after holding a general meeting with party members.

The bill, which was forcibly taken by an assembly speaker to the floor, will be immediately put to a vote following the end of the filibuster.

It is most likely to pass as the ruling Saenuri Party controls 157 seats in the 293-member National Assembly.

The Saenuri welcomed the opposition's decision to resume the stalled parliamentary session, saying that the party will pass the bill on Wednesday.

Won Yoo-cheol, floor leader of the party, however, said there will be no more revisions to the bill since the party reflected the opposition's demand in the past three months.

President Park Geun-hye has repeatedly called on the National Assembly to pass the stalled bill to better protect the lives of South Koreans, citing a string of attacks around the world and threats from North Korea.

"The National Assembly is nearly paralyzed at a time when people's lives and safety are exposed to terror threats," Park said in a televised speech marking a key anniversary that paved the way for Korea's independence from Japanese colonial rule, which lasted from 1910-45. "It is nothing more than a dereliction of duty."

The opposition bloc, however, raised concerns over breach of privacy, such as allowing the National Intelligence Service to collect personal data on anyone suspected of posing a threat to the national security.

The party leadership made the decision during an emergency committee meeting late Monday when interim Chairman Kim Chong-in argued to halt the delaying tactic, party officials said.

Kim raised concerns that the indefinite discussion, if prolonged, could cause public backlash over the delay in the parliamentary endorsement of several contentious bills, they added.

The filibuster prevented the passage of a bipartisan deal on redrawing electoral districts for the upcoming general elections in April.

Earlier, the Saenuri Party and Minjoo Party reached an agreement to hold a plenary session to deliberate the deal on remapping electoral districts for the April 13 polls.

Separately, a bill aimed at improving North Korea's human rights condition also awaits to be taken to the floor for a vote.

Won said that the bill on the North's human rights situation and the bipartisan agreement on the electoral map will all be handled during Wednesday's session.

If passed, the North Korean human rights bill will end some 11 years of partisan bickering over how best to nudge Pyongyang to change.

Among other things, the bill calls for concerted effort to improve the North's human rights situation and set up a center tasked with investigating human right abuses.

(END)

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