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9 Years After 9/11, Is S. Korea Safe?

Posted September. 10, 2010 11:45,   


The U.S. 9/11 Commission Report, formally named the Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, says a cacophony among U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA and FBI, led to their failure to share intelligence. The agencies apparently never imagined that a new method of terrorism could use airplanes. The report also says Washington was off guard over the threat of terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland.

Last year, 80 countries suffered terrorist attacks. South Korea is no longer safe from terrorism. More than 10 million South Koreans travel abroad every year. While the South Korea-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of the South`s national security, it also makes South Koreans a target for attack by Islamic extremists who consider the U.S. their enemy. The Republic of Korea’s population of 50 million is also under threat from North Korea, which never stops committing reckless provocations. The sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan resulted from vicious military terrorism committed by the Kim Jong Il government in Pyongyang. Seoul must step up its security posture since it will host the Group of 20 summit in November.

South Korea successfully hosted the 1986 Asian Games, the 1998 Summer Olympics, the 2000 Asia-Europe Meeting, and the 2002 World Cup soccer finals, but is behind most countries in counter-terrorism ability. Japan as well as the U.S. and the U.K. enacted anti-terrorism laws in 1991 despite disputes over constitutionality. Seoul also needs solid means to protect national security and the lives and safety of the people.

One of the most important things in counter-terrorism activities is to prevent terrorist attacks. Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. has significantly strengthened airport security procedures. Passengers must take off their shoes and belts for security checks. When former ruling Grand National Party chief Park Geun-hye visited the U.S., she even had to take off all of her hairpins for security purposes. Fighting terrorism requires a certain degree of inconvenience for the sake of safety. The Human Rights Commission of (South) Korea decided in June, however, that use of the backscatter X-ray system, which can see through clothes, violates human rights. A reasonable balance between individual privacy and the lives of hundreds is necessary.

The heads of counter-terrorism agencies should be committed to taking a thorough readiness posture. Are they fully committed to their duty without considering their political futures? The upcoming G20 summit in November will put Korea’s counter-terrorism ability to the test.