South Korean police will go on high alert and mobilize a record 50,000 officers to thwart possible threats from North Korea, international terrorists and anti-globalization demonstrators during a summit of world leaders in Seoul next month, the national police commissioner said Monday.
South Korea this year is hosting a series of meetings by the Group of 20 leading advanced and emerging economies that will culminate in a gathering on Nov. 11-12 set to be attended by President Barack Obama and leaders from other G-20 members including China, Germany, Japan, Britain, France, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil.
The event carries great prestige in South Korea, which will be the first non-Group of Seven country as well as the first nation in Asia to host a G-20 summit. The group has become the leading forum for steering the global economy since the outbreak of the world financial crisis in 2008, supplanting the G-7.
Cho Hyun-oh, commissioner general of the Korea National Police Agency, said that the Seoul summit is expected to draw 32 heads of state and leaders of international organizations as well as 10,000 total participants.
"Violent riots that have become common practice at large-scale international events are expected to take place during this summit as well," the uniformed Cho told journalists from foreign news organizations. "Recently, international terrorism is on the rise and risks related to North Korea still remain."
He said that his agency was working with South Korea's military, Interpol and foreign intelligence services to ensure that world leaders will be protected and the summit will be successfully carried out.
Separately, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday that the country's military will also go on high alert to cope with any possible provocations by North Korea and terrorist groups.
"The highest-degree of military readiness" will be arranged to help ensure a safe and successful G-20 meeting, the JCS said in a statement.
Cho said that as the event approaches, nationwide police forces will gradually go "on high alert and 50,000 police officers will be mobilized, which is the largest ever."
He referred to previous anti-globalization protests that were disrupted by demonstrators, such as a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999 and an International Monetary Fund gathering in Prague the following year.
Cho also mentioned a summit of Southeast Asian nations and other regional countries last year in Thailand that was canceled due to violence carried out by local anti-government protesters, and some previous G-20 summits.
To help ensure law and order, Cho said that the South Korean government has plans to enact a special law to limit protests and stop foreigners who have records of "radical, violent protesting" from coming into the country.
Regarding North Korea, Cho said that the country's record of engaging in terrorism in the past means authorities must pay special attention.
He cited the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March, a bomb attack on South Korean Cabinet ministers visiting Myanmar — then known as Burma — in 1983 and which narrowly missed President Chun Doo-hwan and the bombing of a Korean Air jet in 1987 ahead of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul as grounds for vigilance.
"We must always be aware of the situation in North Korea and we must be on guard against it," he said, adding that police were working with South Korea's military and foreign intelligence.
South Korea has blamed North Korea for all of the incidents Cho mentioned. Most recently, Pyongyang rejected claims by Seoul and Washington that a North Korean torpedo sank the South Korean warship Cheonan in March in which 46 sailors died. The sinking dramatically raised inter-Korean tensions.
Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report.
(This version CORRECTS that protests in Thailand were anti-government in nature.)
- Joint Chiefs of Staff
- South Korea
- President Barack Obama
- world financial crisis