[VIEWPOINT]Threats also come in small sizes

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[VIEWPOINT]Threats also come in small sizes

As the ordinance to create “Takeshima Day” passed in a few seconds in Shimane prefecture in Japan, on March 17, the Korean Peninsula is emotionally stirred up, with resentment and anger buzzing around like a disturbed beehive.
Members of right-wing groups gathered from all parts of Japan in Matsue, where the Shimane prefecture office is located. We could not help getting angry when we saw them striding triumphantly in the streets, like victorious soldiers who have returned from war. They are said to have gathered around the local assembly building from 8 a.m., two hours before the session opened, and gave three cheers and shouted other slogans.
Moreover, among the more than 100 right-wingers, many wore military uniforms and had their hair closely cropped, which greatly worries us. What provocations will they commit as they are seized by the spirit of militarism? As long as they clearly exhibit their greedy ambition to invade the Korean Peninsula, we urgently need to prepare a strategy to subvert their plans.
Territorial invasion does not always come from another country and its military power. One threat that Korea faces has nothing to do with guns or battleships: The murderous red fire ants called Solenopsis invicta, from Latin America, wreak havoc wherever they go.
These ants came with timber in American cargo ships to Florida in 1930 and spread to California and other western states. In Texas and California, they killed two thirds of the indigenous ants, causing a disturbance in the ecological system.
The ants attack livestock to blind them, harm young crops to ruin the farming, invade houses to bite people and even gnaw electric lines. They are said to enjoy the shock from exposed wires when they damage electrical appliances.
We can see how fearful their aggressive nature is. The U.S. government has tried almost everything to control them but has yet to find an effective solution.
When the red fire ants were found in Australia in 2001, the Australian government declared a state of emergency. The ants have been spreading rapidly and in great numbers. They have attacked livestock and ruthlessly assaulted even insects indigenous to Australia, disturbing the nation’s ecological system.
The ants are thought to have come from the United States. In a red fire ant house that was built about three years ago, there are usually about 250,000 worker ants, hundreds of male ants and reproductive queen ants. Because they grow until their numbers reach about 300,000, the ants form a large group and then expand. This is why they are called “the murderous ants of terror.”
In November 2004, the red fire ants were discovered throughout Guangdong province in China, our neighbor. The quarantine authorities of Guangdong province announced that the ants had arrived while buried in recycling waste that had been imported from Taiwan.
In China, they continue their destructive ways. They have attacked local residents throughout Zhanjiang city, Guangdong, since November last year, and some farmers and children who were assaulted are reported to be still recovering from their wounds.
The ants moved to Hong Kong, rapidly proliferated in the outskirts, and a few days ago, infiltrated downtown Hong Kong.
Traveling in groups, they have been indiscriminately attacking livestock, crops and even people. If bitten by these ants, the victim’s body swells and the person falls into coma. In serious cases, they die. If they are not exterminated early, the red fire ants will bring about another big natural disaster, just like the tsunami.
The red fire ants are spreading from Latin America to the United States, from the United States to Australia, from Australia to China, and from China to Hong Kong.
The closeness of China, our neighbor, to Korea should give us reason to worry. These ants can land on the Korean Peninsula through ships or airplanes, or through traders’ goods.
Although we should keep an eye on the ambition of invading a neighboring country’s territory, we should also be cautious of the secretly infiltrating fire ants at the national level because they, too, threaten our national security.

* The writer is a professor of entomology at Wonkwang University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Byung-jin
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