President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday urged the swift passage of pending counterterrorism bills, highlighting South Korea is not safe from heightened terrorism risks worldwide.
“Compared to other countries that implemented measures to prevent terror attacks, South Korea has delayed the enactment of antiterrorism bills for 14 years,” Park said while presiding over a Cabinet meeting. “(But) when an incident occurs, the lawmakers are quick to criticize the government while it is they who have been sitting on the bills,” she said.
The rival parties have been locking horns over the bills aimed to systemize the country’s terrorism-related measures and prepare grounds to punish those involved. The bone of contention is the choice of organization that will head the antiterror management. The bills currently presented by the ruling party suggests the National Intelligence Service take the reins, but the opposition claims it would give the “politicized” agency excessive power.
Park underscored that South Korea is not safe from terror attacks and that a comprehensive system should be imminently established, citing the latest arrest of an Indonesian loosely linked to al-Qaida as part of the enhanced counterterror measures after the Nov. 13 Paris terror attacks.
Separately, the NIS officials testified before lawmakers Tuesday that they had found 10 South Koreans closely linked to the Islamic State group. The spy agency said that the Korean sympathizers had made specific inquiries with the terrorist networks about how to enter Syria and join the group.
“They were not just praising IS, but had close ties with IS,” said Rep. Joo Ho-young of the ruling Saenuri Party, who attended the meeting.
Park, meanwhile, also took time to criticize the Nov. 14 rally by labor unions, activists, teachers and students against government policies, calling it “illegal violence.” Tens of participants and police were injured and one protester remains in critical condition after the rally that had gathered around 68,000 in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, according to police statistics.
Park questioned the motives of some of the protesters, saying there were those who called for the resurrection of a minor party that was disbanded last year by the Constitutional Court for plotting against the state.
“Rallies where (protesters) wear face masks should especially be banned,” Park said, referring to a relevant bill recently presented by the ruling Saenuri Party as part of the measures to block violent protests.
“Isn’t that how IS does it right now? Hiding their faces ...,” Park said.
“Illegal violence is an attempt to deny the rule of law and neutralize the government’s role. We found evidence that the Nov. 14 protest was meticulously orchestrated by those illegal groups who often use violence during a protest. ... We will bring to justice those who incite violence behind the scenes,” said Park.
Police over the weekend raided the office of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions and found hammers, ladders and other devices and documents that allegedly show the organization members premediated their attack against authorities.
Park went on to demand prompt passage of economy-related bills the government claims will boost the nation’s faltering economy. She also urged the Assembly to approve the ratification of Korea-China free trade agreement.
The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy lambasted Park’s remark, saying the president was declaring war against the people and the legislative body.
“No matter how displeased she may have felt (over the protests), it is shocking that a president would compare her own people to IS members,” said NPAD spokeswoman Rep. Yoo Eun-hae.
By Yeo Jun-suk (email@example.com