Not prepared enoughThe Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris were not aimed at government agencies or public institutions. They targeted a theater, where a rock band was performing before an audience of thousands; a soccer stadium packed with 80,000 spectators; and restaurants frequented by ordinary citizens.
The new form of terrorism takes aim at so-called soft targets, ordinary places patronized by the masses. The Stade de France located north of Paris luckily discovered a bomb vest during a screening process. Otherwise, it could have led to the massacre of thousands of people in the stadium and even French President Francois Hollande, who was there at the time.
Since the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, terrorists are increasingly targeting ordinary citizens. There is no guarantee that such terrorism will not occur in Korea. Yet security systems at our public facilities are indescribably weak. For instance, anyone can enter most stadiums without undergoing security checks. At a professional basketball game, only 28 security staff - most of them part-time workers - are on guard. In contrast, baseball fans have to go through tough security checks at major league games in other countries.
The security level of our subways and railway stations also are appalling - extremely vulnerable to fires or other accidents, not to mention terrorist attacks. Even gigantic Seoul Station is guarded by only 24 security personnel, including some who are outsourced. As seen in the tragic arson committed by a mentally disabled man in his 50s in the Daegu subway in 2003, which killed 192 passengers, a perpetrator can cause a huge loss of lives. Even Japan couldn’t prevent the infamous 1995 sarin gas attack by a fanatical religious group in the Tokyo subway system. If such lethal attacks take place in Korea, they could trigger unfathomable confusion and the deaths of innocent citizens.
Our national guidelines on counterterrorism requires the education, science and technology minister to establish a countermeasures headquarters for acts of radioactive terrorism, the health and welfare minister a headquarters for biological terrorism, and the environment minister for chemical terrorism. We wonder how many of us are aware of that.
Terror attacks on ordinary citizens can thrust the whole nation into chaos. These days, even terror attacks by so-called lone wolves are on the rise. Unless the government devises effective security systems, we cannot avert terror attacks by evil individuals. The government must overhaul and reinforce our counterterrorism systems.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 17, Page 34