An armored police vehicle secures the U.S. Embassy in Jongno, Seoul. Police heightened surveillance of embassies and foreign institutions, on the heels of foreign news reports saying that Al-Qaeda could target South Korea./Chosun Ilbo
Korea has gone on high alert following al-Qaeda’s warning that Korea would be subject to terrorist attacks. Courtesy the Korea Times:
Seoul went on high alert for possible terrorist attacks over the weekend after a close associate of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden purportedly called for attacks on the United States and its allies, including South Korea.
The Justice Ministry on Sunday directed airport authorities to tighten immigration procedures to prevent the entry of around 4,000 people blacklisted by the Seoul government as suspected terrorists.
No one on the list has attempted to enter South Korea, a ministry official said.
The ministry said it also decided to increase checks on illegal foreign workers in South Korea due to concerns that they might collaborate with global terrorist networks.
Every ministry involved in national defense beefed up precautionary measures following an emergency meeting of the National Security Council convened on Saturday to enhance security at foreign embassies in Seoul and certain key facilities, including government offices, airports and seaports.
The Defense Ministry ordered the whole army, including the 2,800 troops dispatched to Iraq, to step up anti-terrorism readiness. South Korean soldiers stationed in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil are keeping a low-key posture so as not to provoke Islamic rebels, a ministry official said.
As part of the strengthened defense posture, the Republic of Korea’s Army Special Warfare Command’s 707th Special Missions Battalion has been put on standby for immediate deployment. The 707th are, to be blunt, a bunch of tough mofos:
Prospective candidates for the battalion are only drawn from the ranks of qualified special forces personnel. Special Forces operator training and selection lasts for a full year, and includes six months of basic infantry combat training, with an additional six months of special warfare training and parachute training. During the special warfare portion of their training are provided instruction in basic parachute techniques, rappelling and mountain warfare, martial arts, fire arms instruction, and demolitions.
Korean special forces personnel are well known for their toughness, and 707th SMB personnel are reportedly even tougher. Throughout their training physical fitness is stressed and students are driven hard by their instructors. Various reports have stated that members frequently perform daily calisthenics in the snow and subzero temperatures, and swim in freezing lakes without any thermal protection.
Those special forces personnel wishing to volunteer for service in the unit must first pass an extensive background check and endure a ten day selection process that eliminates approximately 90% of the applicants. Counter-terrorist training for the 707th is intensive, and once an operator is accepted into the unit he will receive additional instruction in combat shooting, breaching, assault tactics, SCUBA diving, and various other skills.
The Lost Nomad also shows respect for ROK special forces.
Meanwhile, Korean police detained a man who threatened to bomb South Korea’s presidential office and who was found in possession of 21 sticks of dynamite.
The man, identified only by his family name, Yoo, was apprehended by police on a road near the presidential Blue House, said an officer at Seoul’s Jongno Police Station, which is responsible for security around the presidential compound.
The man, who deals in construction materials, was carrying 21 sticks of dynamite in his car, said the officer.
Before heading for the tightly guarded presidential compound, the man called police, saying he had complaints to discuss with President Roh Moo-hyun and that if he was not granted a meeting with the president, he would bomb Roh’s office, the officer said.
And to top the situation off, conservative groups are planning a major protest tomorrow afternoon in which the demonstrators, who should total 200,000 souls, plan to march from City Hall to Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential residence. To break through police opposition, some of the civic groups involved have apparently formed an “attack unit” composed of some pretty rough hombres:
One civic group official said up till now, the government had surrounded anti-government demonstrations with dozens of police cars and ignored the voice of the people. This time, however, a group of about 300 composed of former special ops personnel who served in North Korea, ex-marines, and youth group members would break through police opposition, he said.
The former special ops guys are very bitter veterans of the Headquarters Intelligence Detachment (HID), about which Aidan Foster-Carter (a very nice man whom I was lucky enough to meet Friday night, and now feel thoroughly bad about writing rather nasty things about in an earlier post) wrote about in November 2001. Between 1951 and 1972, as many of 10,000 South Koreans signed up (or were signed up) to perform missions in North Korea; 7,726 never made it back. These are the same folk who staged violent protests in 2002 in which they used improvised flame throwers made from propane tanks against Seoul’s finest. This time around, however, the boys in blue will have their Israeli-made water cannon vehicles on hand just in case things get ugly.
Should be a fun day at work tomorrow.
UPDATE: GI Korea offers his thoughts on Korea’s addition to al-Qaeda’s hit list:
If I was a terrorist looking to kill anyone for political benefits the easiest target would be a busy subway station during rush hour. The Taegu subway fire two years ago is unfortunately a blue print I can see these terrorists using. That fire killed 130 people which is slightly more then what was killed in the Madrid train bombings.
If the terrorists could get those same casualty results by an attack here in Korea you will see a anti-American back lash against the US from the leftists here in Korea. This would serve the terrorists’ interests of driving a wedge between the US-ROK alliance to get the Koreans troops pulled from Iraq. However, I don’t think the Korean government would withdraw their soldiers. I really think Koreans have a lot more backbone then people give them credit for [emphasis mine]. If Al Qaida causes a successful attack in Korea I could see Korea possibly deploying combat forces to Afghanistan in response to such an incident. Deploying combat forces to Afghanistan would serve a dual role of hunting Al Qaida terrorists but also would provide invaluable combat experience for ROK Army troops in a highly mountainous environment which any conflict here on the Korean peninsula would involve.