No divide over counterterrorism

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No divide over counterterrorism

The Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks impacted not just the United States but also the world. The United States passed the Patriot Act, and the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada passed anti-terrorism acts, which allow terror suspects to be arrested sans a warrant and wiretapping on phone conversations. Some clauses can be seen as human rights violations.

But the parliaments of these countries processed the bills promptly, which was unprecedented. The United Kingdom had the law approved a month after it was proposed, and the French parliament reviewed and passed the bill in only two weeks. As per the recommendation of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, India, Turkey, the Philippines, Indonesia and many others legislated an anti-terrorism act. However, the Korean National Assembly hasn’t been interested in enacting a counter-terrorism act. While a few terrorism-related bills were proposed, there have never been serious discussions on them.

Korea’s anti-terrorism policy follows the National Counter-Terrorism Activities Guideline set forth in 1982. It is not a law but a presidential order. So it’s hard to expect an effective and efficient response to terrorism. The guideline was created for the 1988 Olympic Games, and even after several revisions, it is still not enough to catch up with evolving terrorism as a result of globalization and technological advancement. For example, the guideline states that when a terrorist attack occurs, a task force is formed for each area. The minister of education, science and ICT would install and operate a task force for radiation-related terrorism, while the minister of health and welfare deals with biological terrorism. The minister of environment is in charge of a chemical attack. As we witnessed in the aftermath of the Sewol ferry tragedy, the current system would be useless for a large-scale attack.

U.S. Ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert was attacked by Kim Ki-jong, a self-proclaimed activist. While some see it as a terrorist attack backed by pro-Pyongyang groups, others think it is an independent incident by an extremist.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency sees terrorism as carried out in order to exert psychological shock on the public rather than directly on the victims. If a terrorist’s intention to spread panic works, society falls into disarray. While the case needs further investigation, Kim’s act was more like terrorism than deviant behavior. As Kim was arrested, he shouted out that the joint military drills between Korea and the United States must be stopped. Clearly it was a political move.

The counter-terrorism bill proposed by Saenuri Rep. Lee Byung-seok is pending in parliament. Opponents claim the bill possibly violates human rights and promotes the abuse of power by the National Intelligence Service. If there is a possibility that it infringes on human rights, specific alternatives must be proposed. The legislation of a counter-terrorism act cannot prevent all terrorist attacks, but terrorism is a public enemy the entire world must fight off together.

The author is an editorial writer
for the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 9, Page 28

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