North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly ordered preparations for terror attacks against South Korea. The North’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, an organization responsible for clandestine operations and intelligence gathering, has been accordingly preparing for such attacks, said a ruling party lawmaker Thursday, citing information from the National Intelligence Service.
The NIS shared its information with lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee and officials of the Ministry of National Defense at an emergency meeting. Rep. Lee Chul-woo, head of the ruling party legislators on the committee, briefed reporters on what he heard from the NIS after the meeting.
Kim Sung-woo, chief presidential press secretary, also shared similar information with reporters, urging lawmakers from the ruling and main opposition parties to pass the antiterrorism bill without further delay.
The possibility of North Korea perpetrating terror attacks against the South has increased following the Seoul government’s sanctions on the North for its nuclear bomb test on Jan. 6 and a long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7.
Seoul has shut down the Gaeseong industrial park, a cash cow for the impoverished North, and is holding negotiations with Washington to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system.
It has also been pushing, together with Washington and Tokyo, for the U.N. Security Council to slap strong and comprehensive sanctions on the North.
Given the North’s past behavior, it would be hardly surprising if it reacted with terror attacks. The Reconnaissance General Bureau has a long record of ruthless clandestine attacks against the South, including the destruction of the Navy’s Cheonan corvette in 2010 and the land mine attack in August last year, which maimed two South Korean soldiers.
The NIS warned of possible terror attacks and abduction attempts on government officials, defectors from the North and anti-North Korea activists. The North could also target public facilities, such as subway and shopping malls, and key infrastructure.
As terror threats loom, the government needs to step up its antiterrorism posture. But it cannot take necessary steps to fend off terrorist attacks due to the lack of legal grounds to do so. So legislators should pass the long-pending counterterrorism bill.
The government also needs to strengthen security checks on major public facilities. The nation’ security vulnerability has been well illustrated by the recent security breaches at Incheon International Airport.