SEOUL, South Korea - Brawling South Korean lawmakers tried to sledgehammer their way into a parliamentary meeting room barricaded by the ruling party as the National Assembly descended into chaos yesterday over a free-trade agreement with the United States.

Opposition parties were incensed by the ruling Grand National Party's move to submit the agreement to a committee on trade, setting in motion the process for the accord to win approval in the legislature.

Security staff and aides from the ruling party stood guard outside the room to keep opposition lawmakers away after the committee's GNP-affiliated chairman invoked his right to use force to "keep order" in parliamentary proceedings.

Scuffles broke out as dozens of opposition members and their aides attempted to push their way into the office. TV footage showed people from both sides shoving, pushing and shouting in a crowded hall at the National Assembly building amid a barrage of camera flashes.

Opponents later used a sledgehammer and other construction tools to tear open the room's wooden doors, only to find barricades of furniture set up inside as a second line of defense.

The opposition attempt failed, and 10 GNP legislators introduced the bill to the committee.