In South Korea, a proposed free trade agreement with the U.S. was so divisive that opposition lawmakers threw tear gas during a session of parliament on Tuesday, sending hundreds running from the room in agony.
The tear gas canister was thrown by Democratic Labor Party member Kim Sun-Dong, who walked up to the house speakers podium and reportedly shouted “No to FTA (Free Trade Agreement)!” and “GNP [Grand National Party] aren’t you afraid of history and the people?
After clearing the space, lawmakers, many wearing masks or covering their faces with handkerchiefs, returned to the building and ratified the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. with a 151 to 7 majority. Most opposition MPs weren't present.
Trade between the U.S. and South Korea totaled about $90 billion in 2010, and the agreement will be especially beneficial to South Korea's automobile-related parts, electronics, and textiles industries, according to ABC New's Joohee Cho. However, the bill will likely hurt the agriculture, fisheries, and chemicals industries.
The new deal is the U.S.' biggest free-trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico was signed in 1994, The Associated Press reports. U.S. congress approved the bill in October.
Even before the tear gas incident, the session had been pugnacious. Members of the GNP stormed the floor of parliament to demand a vote on the bill, causing a scuffle. Contemporaneously, protestors opposed to the agreement clashed with police outside.