The ruling Saenuri Party and South Korean intelligence have reported the threat of a North Korean terror attack is increasing, with some sources even saying that South Korea’s four highest governmental officials may be targets for assassination.
However, observers and an opposition lawmaker said that the ruling party’s claim is aimed at increasing anxiety among voters to create a favorable political landscape before the April election.
“The National Intelligence Service (NIS) is collecting relevant intelligence as North Korea might carry out the abduction, poisoning or terror attack on national facilities, and cyber attacks against South Korean government officials or defectors,” ruling party lawmaker Lee Chul-woo said during a conference of party and government officials on Thursday.
“Kim Jong Un has ordered an increase in the capability to carry out terror attacks, and North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau is preparing (according to Kim’s order).”
The Reconnaissance General Bureau is North Korea’s intelligence department, and department chief Kim Yong Chol has been speculated as having succeeding to the post of director of the United Front Department.
The Joongang Ilbo claimed that some unspecified participants in the conference have stated that Chief of the South Korean National Security Office Kim Kwan-jin, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Defense Minister Han Min-goo and Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo are among North Korea’s targets.
NIS’s public relations office told NK News that they cannot confirm any of the Joongang’s claims.
Recently, during her speech at the National Assembly on Tuesday, President Park Geun-hye said that the safety of South Koreans may be compromised by North Korean attacks, emphasizing the need to pass a counter-terrorism bill.
A lawmaker from the opposition Minjoo Party said that the counter-terrorism bill will make it easier for the government to read people’s bank accounts and wiretap people’s phones.
“The new bill has chance to be misused by the NIS, the organization that has already lost public trust, for their own interests,” Kim Kwang-jin told NK News.
An expert also said the sudden talks of possible North Korean terror attacks and the ruling party’s urging to pass the counter-terrorism bill may be interpreted as their push to win more votes, by increasing fear of North Korea among voters, ahead of the upcoming elections.
“It is the government’s job to come up with the measures that would prevent cases of human rights violations should the bill be put into practice,” Ha Seung-ju, chief of the Northeast Asian Political Economic Research Center told NK News.
“But the government is only forcing the passage of the law, and lacking in its efforts to provide the people with more details on the bill. Under this circumstance, the ruling party’s motion for the bill cannot be explained without their political intention for the upcoming April general election.”
Bukpung, literally translated as “the wind from the North” is a South Korean political term meaning that government officials are politicizing the voters’ fears of North Korea to set up a more favorable political environment before elections.
The most well-known case of bukpung took place when three Blue House officials in 1997 held a meeting with the North Korean councilor Pak Chung in Beijing to ask for an armed demonstration near the DMZ to raise the approval rating of the then-ruling party presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang. All three officials were convicted of violating the National Security Act in 2003.
Featured image: MND Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, MoU official website
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