Seoul gears up for threat of bio-chemical terrorism : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Seoul gears up for threat of bio-chemical terrorism As fears of anthrax spread across the United States, South Korea is taking measures against possible biological and chemical attacks, officials said yesterday. The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs has ordered local governments to strengthen surveillance, training and education to cope with possible bio-terrorist attacks.

The National Institute of Health has put hospitals and state health institutions nationwide on special alert against deadly diseases such as anthrax, smallpox and pest.

Experts warned that Korea will never be safe from bio-chemical attacks by anti-American terrorists as the nation hosts 37,000 U.S. forces.

The nation has many densely populated areas, a condition that makes it vulnerable to surprise assaults using poison gas or deadly viruses. The experts also cited loopholes in immigration control at ports of entry.

They pointed out potential threats from North Korea, which is suspected of possessing a large stock of biological and chemical weapons, as well as high technology and mass production systems.

The North is believed to have the world's third-largest chemical war stockpile following the United States and Russia and possess significant amounts of biological agents including anthrax, military analysts said. Pyongyang has not joined international treaties that ban use of bio-chemical weapons.

The Defense Ministry said it established new headquarters in June 1999 to fend off possible biological and chemical attacks from the North or other terrorist groups.

The ministry has earmarked 350 billion won to build up its capability to fight such assaults for the next four years, officials said.

The Ministry of Government Administration has instructed the Civil Defense Corps to create new defense units specializing in bio-chemical attacks, which could go into action swiftly in case of crisis.

Police will enhance monitoring of department stores and subway stations while government offices will be prepared to provide gas masks and other means of individual protection promptly when attacks occur, officials said.

The ministry also said it plans to conduct a joint exercise this or next month involving citizens, rescue workers, civil servants and the military to cope with possible forms of terrorism.

The health authorities said that the government will spend 2 billion won to stock vaccines and antibiotics, and will launch emergency response teams for the detection and prevention of infections. Hospitals and health centers across the nation were ordered to report promptly to the authorities in case of outbreak of suspicious diseases.

Police were on high alert Saturday when they received a report that suspicious white powder was scattered in downtown Seoul. The powder was found in front of a hotel near a U.S. Forces Korea base in Yongsan and was later identified as wheat flour.

( By Hwang Jang-jin Staff reporter

-- Martin Thompson (, October 14, 2001

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