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Illegal Entry and Terrorism

Posted April. 09, 2010 07:01,   


International events attended by celebrities and media from across the world provide a good opportunity for terrorists to bring attention to their cause. That is why global sporting events such as the Olympics or the World Cup soccer finals or global summits and international conferences are often targets for terrorist attacks. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., airplanes, hotels, large buildings, military and religious facilities have been the target of terrorists. The economic logic of “minimum cost, maximum effect (damage)” also comes into play.

Seoul will host the Group of 20 summit in November, and terrorists are probably eyeing the gathering of leaders from the world’s top 20 economies. South Korea has successfully hosted large international events such as the 1986 Asiad, the 1988 Summer Olympics, the 2002 World Cup, the 2005 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit and last year’s ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit. Yet the country cannot grow complacent in guarding against a terrorist attack. North Korea is always a cause for concern.

Some 2,000 foreigners who were previously expelled for committing criminal or illegal acts in Korea reportedly changed their names or tried to reenter Korea with fake or forged passports. This is a reminder that more attention is needed to the threat of terrorist attacks before the G20 summit. Foreigners who reenter South Korea with fake passports or by changing their names are often found out because of the face recognition program. Since the program is not that accurate, however, 1,037 foreigners reentered the country and were belatedly caught over the past six months. A Taliban member caught last month had come to South Korea 17 times over the past five years using a passport in his brother’s name.

This problem can be tackled only with the reinstatement of the foreigner fingerprint registration system, something that was abolished by the Roh Moo-hyun administration at the end of 2003 because of “human rights concerns.” If foreigners’ fingerprints are not registered, there is no way to confirm identities even if fingerprints are found at a crime scene of a foreigner. It could be a “ghost case,” or one in which no criminal is found. The U.S. and Japan require foreigners to get fingerprinted or get their faces photographed, so why not South Korea? The country is never free from the threat of terrorist attack.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-taek(maypole@donga.com)