Korea Needs to Protect Itself from Terrorism

      November 17, 2015 13:44

      Friday's deadly terror attacks in Paris have brought home once again how nonchalant Korea is about the threat of global terrorism. A comprehensive anti-terrorism bill has been in limbo in the National Assembly for a staggering 14 years, while Koreans tourists are jetting off to Europe in droves apparently oblivious to the dangers.

      The ruling Saenuri Party has now decided to resume its push for an anti-terrorism bill, which was proposed by the National Intelligence Service in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. But unlike in the U.S. and U.K., which eagerly enacted sweeping anti-terror laws, the bill was tabled and rejected several times.

      The bill is in limbo because opposition lawmakers feared it would give the NIS too much power to spy on individual citizens. But it was in fact the brainchild of the left-leaning administrations of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, who had closer experience than most of the authoritarian governments of the past, so it is a mystery why opposition lawmakers are so afraid of it. 

      The essence of the bill is to give the NIS the power to create an anti-terrorism center and gather the financial and communication records of terror suspects. Such activities are crucial in preventing terror rather than responding to it when it is too late.

      Following the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. lawmakers and the White House empowered the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate a myriad of roles that were handled by the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies. If opposition lawmakers worry that the NIS will abuse its new powers, they can easily enact safeguards to keep the spy agency on a tight leash. Knee-jerk opposition does nothing for the safety of the country.

      But the public are also alarmingly blasé. According to travel industry sources, only a handful of honeymooners canceled their trips to Paris. Out of 800 people who booked trips to France by year end at one travel agency, a mere 10 canceled.

      In Japan, by contrast, the top tour operator JTB voluntarily halted tours to France leaving over the weekend. Japanese schools have also canceled school trips to France and are watching the developing situation there.

      Over the last five years, six Koreans were killed and 32 others injured in terror attack overseas, some specifically targeting Koreans. This shows that nobody and nowhere is safe from terrorism. Too many Koreans fancy they are somehow immune.
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