The bill to send Korean troops to Iraq, scheduled for deliberation at the National Assembly on March 25, was postponed to April 2 due to nationwide anti-war protests including threats by women and civic groups to launch rejection campaigns against assemblymen in favor of the troop dispatch.
The government, which had expected the bill to be passed without trouble, seems to have taken a step back in the face of the unexpectedly strong public resistance, not to mention the announcement by civic groups to reject politicians who are in favor of troop dispatch during the general election next year.
Five women legislators officially took their stand against the troop dispatch on March 24, and women and civic groups have taken the same stand, launching a sit-in strike in front of the National Assembly beginning March 22. Civic groups including KWAU asked to be present as observers at the March 25 National Assembly session to pass the troop dispatch bill. On the day itself, they demonstrated fiercely both inside and outside the National Assembly building, to the point of getting arrested by riot police. As the general meeting of ruling and opposition party members preceding the session stretched out, the session, originally scheduled for 2 p.m., was put off repeatedly, and eventually rescheduled to a later date.
Although the government has retreated for now in the face of vehement protests, civic groups predict that it will eventually push ahead with the troop dispatch as it has officially sided the US in the war. Accordingly, civic and women groups are planning to launch rejection campaigns together with their anti-war campaign.
"Now that the bill has been postponed, we will continue to build public opposition against the war and prevent the troop dispatch bill from being passed at the National Assembly. We have already proposed that President Roh hold a national talk with citizens, and we will demand that he give in to public opinion on this issue," announced the KWAU.
As Secretary Jeong Su-young of the Anti-War Peace Alliance points out, "the postponement is merely a superficial move to earn time for President Roh to speak before the National Assembly on the inevitability of the troop dispatch, followed by assemblymen putting up a show of accepting Roh's rationale and passing the bill." Jeong emphasized, "We will continue to organize demonstrations and generate public consensus to fight to the end, so that Korea will not send its troops to support an unjustifiable war."