Terror threat is real

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Terror threat is real

The bout of shootings and suicide bombings on a street crowded with hotels and high-rises in Jakarta, Indonesia, suggests the threat of extremist Islamic State group has arrived on our side of the world.

The terror plots were carried out by an organization that sprouted in Indonesia with allegiance to the radical militant group of Sunni Muslim denomination. It is the first IS-claimed assault in a major city in Asia.

U.S. military authorities have warned that the IS jihadists could increase attacks around the world as they are under increased pressure from a U.S-led coalition in Iraq and Syria.

South Korea is among the list of 60 nations the IS has warned of attacks for siding with the U.S. engagement. The jihadist IS now occupies areas of Syria and Iraq and has been outsourcing terrorist acts to loyal groups around the world.

Its influence has already reached Korea. One Korean teenager has been confirmed to have been recruited by the group and there may be fighter groups breeding underground at home.

This type of terror does not attack the usual targets like government or military compounds, but rather random civilians on the streets or in congested areas, which makes pre-emptive and precautionary actions harder. Since the shootings and suicide bombings in Paris in November last year, the group has become more brutal and blatant in civilian attacks.

We need an entirely new counterterrorism approach. Strictly speaking, we have no prevention and protection measures. A bill on terrorism prevention has been pending in the legislature for 15 years due to wranglings about excess public authority and infringement of privacy.

The government should instead embark on what has already been agreed to by the rival parties by creating an counterterrorism center under the Prime Minister’s Office.

We cannot go on leaving the safety of 30 million people commuting at the Seoul Station in downtown Seoul in the hands of three private security guards and two gas gun-armed police. We cannot afford to lose any more time wrangling over ideological issues when real lives are at stake.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 16, Page 30

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