A terror threat not far away

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A terror threat not far away

Five foreign nationals linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) were barred from entering the country this week for trying to smuggle in ammonium nitrate, an ingredient used in bombs and explosives. Two Korean nationals also had their passports canceled over suspicions that they were trying to leave the country to join the militant group, according to a report by the National Intelligence Service (NIS). These findings suggest Korea is no longer safe from international terrorist groups.

To us, terrorism activities were before entirely associated with North Korea. We have always lived under the North Korean threat. Still, society at large was never gripped by terror despite sporadic attacks initiated by North Korea, which have mostly been targeted at military facilities. We believed the bombings and killings carried out by extremist groups were restricted to other countries. But we must be aware that we, too, could fall prey to religiously motivated extremist terrorist groups.

Earlier this year, an 18-year-old Korean was reported to have joined the Islamic State in Syria. Other teens and young people here have also been found to have expressed interest or loyalty to the extremist group. France and other countries worldwide went on high alert in January after heavily armed gunmen shouting Islamist slogans stormed a satirical newspaper based in Paris and opened fire. If the Islamic State’s foreign recruits succeed in smuggling in explosives and join with loyal Koreans, we can not exclude ourselves from the dangers of terrorism.

The government has proposed and submitted an anti-terrorism bill, but it didn’t even make it to the National Assembly’s general session. Some lawmakers have opposed it, citing the potential for the bill to infringe on citizens’ basic rights. Enhanced surveillance on potentially suspicious activities could violate the right to privacy.

But still, it would be better to be fully prepared than to have regrets after a greater danger befalls us. This proposal must be discussed publicly so that any overly intrusive clauses may be modified for legislation. What should matter most to the government and the legislature is the safety of the Korean people.
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