Anti-terror law is required: Park

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Anti-terror law is required: Park

President Park Geun-hye pressed the National Assembly Tuesday to end its 14-year failure to pass an anti-terrorism law, stressing that lawmakers are as responsible for the public’s safety as the government.

Park made the comment during an unscheduled cabinet meeting Tuesday morning. She said she decided to call the meeting because Korea cannot be immune from terrorism, citing recent attacks in Paris and Mali.

“A foreigner who entered the country with a fake passport and supported an international terrorist group was recently arrested,” Park said. “This shows that Korea is not a safe zone from terrorism.”

Ordering the administration to beef up its security efforts, Park criticized the National Assembly for having sat on relevant bills for 14 years.

“While the National Assembly is doing nothing with the delayed bills, the lawmakers always issue severe criticisms of the government whenever an incident takes place,” Park said. “Our people’s lives and safety are not just the government’s responsibility.” Park’s comment was made as the country’s main spy agency briefed the National Intelligence Committee of the National Assembly about the latest information on terrorist threats in Korea.

Last week, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) told lawmakers that 48 foreigners were deported over the past five years after they were identified as members of terrorist groups. It also said about 10 Koreans openly supported the Islamic State (ISIS) on the Internet. During Tuesday’s closed-door meeting, the NIS elaborated on the report. According to Rep. Joo Ho-young of the Saenuri Party, who attended the briefing, the 10 Koreans were more than passive sympathizers.

“The NIS said the 10 people went farther than simply praising ISIS,” Joo said. “The NIS had circumstantial evidence that they actually tried to join ISIS by asking specific ways to travel to Syria and how to contact ISIS agents.”

Because current laws prohibit the NIS from tracking down their identities, the NIS requested the National Assembly to amend the laws, Joo said.

“The NIS said prevention is crucial for anti-terrorism operations,” Joo said. “Surveillance is important, but the current laws do not allow the NIS to do such activities. Lawmakers and the NIS, therefore, requested a revision of the laws to make up for the weakness.”

The ruling and opposition parties as well as the administration repeatedly introduced anti-terrorism bills to the National Assembly over the years. The first bill was proposed in 2001 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

No voting, however, took place as the lawmakers fear that any bill will give too much power to the NIS, which time and again has involved itself in domestic politics. The latest bill, proposed by the ruling Saenuri Party, seeks to establish a counterterrorism center inside the NIS and the plan is strongly opposed by the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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