Consensus is required

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Consensus is required

The National Assembly must deliberate on urgent issues such as prevention of terror attacks and countermeasures for last summer’s drought on a fast track. The legislature must tackle them with thorough analysis and a review of the budget is needed. But if lawmakers drag their feet by dismissing the drought measures as an extension of the controversial four-rivers restoration project, we cannot hope to overcome external and internal threats.

Korea is exposed to three major terrorist threats: from North Korea, belligerent pro-North groups in the country and international Islamic extremists. Kim Ki-jong, a self-proclaimed activist for the unification of the Korean Peninsula who attempted to kill U.S. Ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert in March, is a typical homebred anti-U.S. terrorist. A bus packed with Korean tourists suffered a fatal bomb attack in the Sinai Peninsula in February 2014, hinting at the possibility that South Korea, a U.S. ally, was being targeted by Islamic fundamentalists.

According to the National Intelligence Service, 48 foreigners suspected of having links with international terrorist organizations have been deported from Korea. Recently, as many as 10 Korean nationals were found to have publicly supported the Islamic State (ISIS) on the Internet. After the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, an illegal Indonesian immigrant to Korea with sympathies for ISIS was arrested in Korea. He was suspected of supporting al-Nusra Front, a Jihadist group, on social network platforms. A fake M16 rifle and Islamic fundamentalist books were also found in his home. Meanwhile, 200 Syrian refugees were found to have entered Korea by air. The government should accept humanitarian refugees, but keep a close watch on the possibility of potential terrorists entering Korea disguised as refugees.

The government calls for a 100 billion won ($85.4 million) increase in its 2016 counterterrorism budget, including 30 billion won to prepare for chemical, biological and radiological attacks; another 30 billion won to purchase five speed boats; and 8 billion won to purchase or renew bullet-proof or radioactive-proof jackets. But that’s hardly enough to meet even the minimum requirements.

In terms of the drought, the driest season in decades has critically damaged crops in rural areas. Fortunately, the government can relieve farmers of their pain by taking advantage of water in reservoirs. The government plans to spend an additional 145 billion won to brace for another expected drought next spring.

The debate over the four-rivers project is meaningless now. Since the project was completed, we saw no serious damages from floods. If the ruling and opposition parties can form a united front, we can find a breakthrough in the war on terror and dealing with the drought.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 19, Page 34

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