Mail bombs targeting world leaders have been detected and an oil pipeline in Yemen has exploded. Given that the pipeline was operated by a government-owned oil company in South Korea and the explosion occured just a week before the G-20 Seoul summit, South Korea is on high alert.
Terrorist attacks were reported in 80 countries last year, with several incidents showing that even South Korea is not free from threats. South Koreans were kidnapped by terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and three of them were killed. Five nationals also perished in a terrorist bombing in Yemen. The reasons for the attacks on South Koreans vary from religious differences and the Souths troop dispatch to Muslim countries to Seouls alliance with Washington.
South Korea, however, must remain most vigilant against provocations from North Korea. Pyongyang has conducted government-led terrorist attacks and military provocations over the years whenever the South held international events. The Stalinist country bombed a Korean Air passenger plane in mid-air in 1988, when Seoul hosted the Summer Olympics. When the South co-hosted the World Cup soccer finals with Japan in 2002, the North provoked inter-Korean naval clashes in the Yellow Sea. In March this year, the South Korean naval warship Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo. Pyongyang could plot another terror attack, and the possibility of another provocation cannot be ruled out since the communist country can seek to resolve internal instability stemming from economic difficulty and its power succession process by raising inter-Korean tension.
Though watertight preparation against terrorism is difficult, this is no excuse for neglect of duty. The South Korean government needs to strengthen the monitoring of terrorist suspects, precautions against terrorist attacks on public places and facilities, and cooperation with international intelligence and police. The enactment of a counterterrorism law is also necessary to systemically cope with terrorism.
Public cooperation is also crucial since counterterrorism measures will inevitably lead to restrictions on individual freedom and inconvenience. Especially urgent is public vigilance against suspicious people or activities. A massive terrorist attack in New York in May was thwarted thanks to an alert American. In South Korea, a taxi driver reported a North Korean submarine that infiltrated South Korean waters in 1996, and a fisherman did the same in 1998. Terrorism targets random people so everyone must stay vigilant against signs of terrorist attacks.