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Homegrown Terrorism1,2,3:
South Korea’s Next Challenge against Terrorism
by Steve S. Sin

* Steve Sung-Kun Sin graduated from the University of Texas (Austin) in

1995 with a BA in Government. He is a Major in the US Army currently
assigned as the Chief of Open Source Intelligence Branch, Directorate
of Intelligence, US Forces Korea. The views expressed in this article are
those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of
the US Forces Korea, the Department of the Army, the Department of
Defense, or the US Government.

With over 22,000 American service members stationed in the ROK, the
USFK is known more for its role as a symbol of the US commitment to the
defense of the ROK against North Korean aggression than its role as a
partner in the ROK’s fight against terrorism. Many who study terrorism
even have the attitude, “Does Korea even have an issue with terrorism?”
Perspectives as a person who has served recently in the USFK analyzing
terrorism and force protection issues is that the possibility of terrorism is a
reality in the ROK. This article will put forth an argument that while the
ROK to date has not suffered any known incident of “homegrown” Islamic-
inspired terrorism, many if not all of the necessary pre-conditions are
already well established. With this awareness, the ROK must develop and
implement a coherent program with two key elements: increased vigilance,
and palliative outreach measures to potential malefactors, their families and,
to the extent that a coherent community exists, its leaders.

The ROK is neither immune from nor unfamiliar with acts of terrorism. It
has dealt with numerous terrorist acts since its inception in 1948, including
attacks against its citizens in foreign countries. The most common types of
terrorist tactics used against ROK interests have included bombing,
shooting, hijacking, and kidnapping. To date, North Korea was responsible
for almost all terrorism-related events against the ROK within and outside of
its borders (Koerner 2003 and Fischer 2007).

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Traditionally focused on potential terrorism from the North, the ROK

government has for the last few years been shifting its attention to possible
acts of terror from beyond the Korean Peninsula. Reflecting this shift, the
MOFAT appointed the first Director for International Counter-terrorism
Cooperation in February 2006 (Office of the Coordinator for
Counterterrorism 2007, Ch 2).

The ROK has yet to experience terrorism within its borders where North
Korea is not the primary actor. It has not, however, escaped numerous
threats and warnings from Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, some known
or suspected of association with Al-Qaeda (4) and acts of terrorism carried
out against its citizens abroad, such as the kidnapping of 23 Christian
missionaries in Afghanistan in 2007 and the beheading of Kim Sun-Il in Iraq
in 2004 are the two most recent incidents.

In an effort to better address the issues of terrorism, both abroad and

domestically, the ROK military, law enforcement, and government agencies
have been cooperating closely with the USFK. The USFK has a robust
Force Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Counter-terrorism programs to protect
both the US service members and families stationed in Korea and the US
interests in the region. These programs also assist the ROK partners prepare
for the possibilities of terrorism in Korea and to fight and defeat any terrorist
activity against the ROK interests on and off the Korean Peninsula.
Cooperation between the USFK and the ROK military during the hostage
crisis in Afghanistan in 2007 was a prime example.

Unremarkable Residents of Community.

The concept of homegrown terrorism is not new; however, it does depart

from the conventional terrorism models where the terrorists are of foreign
origins. In these conventional models, a terrorist organization located in a
foreign country would dispatch a team of operatives to conduct an initial
assessment of the possible target areas. Once the assessment is completed,
and the conditions are set for an attack, a different team of operatives would
enter the target area from overseas to carry out the attack (attack may or may

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not be a suicide mission). Assuming the attack was not a suicide mission,
the operatives would then ex-filtrate the area.

With the homegrown terrorism model, however, terrorists are usually local
residents of the target area who are living ordinary lives as members of their
community. They don’t have criminal histories, and they do not always
exhibit extremist behaviors. Homegrown terrorist cells are generally
composed of young, 1.5th-, second- and third-generation immigrants. These
cells may or may not have an ideological affiliation with large terrorist
organizations such as Al-Qaeda, and generally operate with total autonomy.

Madrid train bombing, Amsterdam’s Hofstad Group, London subway and

bus bombings, Australia’s Operation Pendennis, and the Toronto 18 cases
are all notable homegrown terrorism cases that have occurred throughout the
world. The United States has had its share of attempted homegrown
terrorism as seen in the Fort Dix case of 2007 and the Sears Tower case of
2006. The threat of homegrown terrorism is real and it is a problem that
every nation-state has to face and deal with today and for the foreseeable

Ideology and Radicalization.

Terrorism experts point out that youth, unemployment, feelings of

alienation, a longing to feel self-important, and a need to be part of a group
are some of the major qualities that individuals who are likely to adopt a
terrorist ideology have in common. They also observe that religion can be
compelling to such individuals, and they are prone to exploitation by radical
religious leaders (Kaplan 2007).

Therefore, religious ideology and radicalization play a major role for the
would-be terrorists. In the West, and to most extent in Northeast Asia, the
phenomenon of radicalization occurs largely because the people are looking
for an identity and sense of belonging – unfortunately, identity and sense of
belonging are sometimes found in extremist Islam.

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The ideology responsible for driving the radicalization and motivates young
men and women to carry out self-guided jihad-inspired terrorism against
their host countries is the jihadi-Salafism (5). This ideology inspired all or
nearly all of the homegrown groups in the West including those mentioned
earlier in this paper.

Terrorism is the ultimate consequence of the radicalization process (6) and it

is composed of four phases: 1) Pre-radicalization; 2) Self-identification; 3)
Indoctrination; and 4) Jihadization. Each phase has unique and specific
signatures and individuals who undergo the process do not necessarily
follow a sequential progression. It is important to note that not all
individuals who begin the radicalization process necessarily complete it –
most, in fact, abandon the process. If an individual does pass through the
entire process, however, it is quite likely he will get involved in terrorism.

There is no set timeline for the radicalization process. The homegrown

terrorism cases the New York Police Department studied shows each
homegrown group underwent the process at different speeds and for
different length of time – the shortest being approximately four years and
the longest being approximately 13 years (See Chart 1).

One of the critical parts of the radicalization process is the effect of the
radicalization catalysts. The catalysts can be found in different, seemingly
benign, venues such as cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, flophouses, student
associations, non-governmental organizations, bookstores, and even
mosques. These locations provide meeting places and haunts for like-
minded individuals who have chosen to pursue radicalization as they move
through the process.

One of the radicalization catalysts that cannot be overlooked today is the

internet. The internet, with its thousands of extremist websites and chat-
rooms, serves as the virtual venue. In fact,many of the would-be extremists
begin their process while researching or just surfing on the internet. As
individuals progress through the various stages of radicalization, their use of
the internet evolves. In the self-identification phase, the internet serves as

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Chart 1. (Source: Mitchell and Bhatt 2007, 81)

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the person’s source of information about Islam and venue to meet others
online. With the aggressive proliferation of the jihadi-Salafi ideology online,
it is nearly impossible for someone to avoid this extreme interpretation of
Islam. During the indoctrination phase, individuals devote their time
tapping into the virtual networks of like-minded individuals around the
world via extremist sites and chat rooms who reinforce the individual’s
beliefs and commitment and further legitimize them. In the Jihadization
phase, people challenge and encourage each others for action.

It is at this stage, the internet becomes a resource for obtaining instructions

on constructing weapons, gathering information on potential targets, and
providing spiritual justification for an attack (Mitchell and Bhatt 2007, 82,
16, 19, 81, 20, 37).

Emergence of the ROK as a Regional and International Power.

The ROK had one of the fastest economic developments in the world since
the 1960s and is now one of the four largest economies in Asia and the 13th
largest economy in the world. In the late 20th century, many people referred
to the ROK as a newly industrialized country and an Asian Tiger due to its
rapid economic growth. Today, the ROK ranks among the G20 industrial
nations and is a Next Eleven nation with many developing countries
referring to its economic success as the Miracle on the Han River, using the
ROK’s success story as a role model. The ROK has a "High" HDI of 0.912
and is part of both the CIA and IMF lists of advanced economies, being
defined as a High Income Nation by the World Bank (IMF 2007).

The ROK is one of the world's most technologically and scientifically

advanced countries; it is the only country in the world with nationwide
100Mbit/s broadband internet access, full HDTV broadcasting, DMB,
WiBro and 3G HSDPA. It is currently the most wired nation in the world,
with more than 90 per cent of all homes connected to high speed broadband
internet. The ROK is a global leader in electronics, computers, digital
displays, semiconductor devices, mobile phones, and hi-tech gadgets,
headed by the two chaebols (i.e., conglomerates), Samsung and LG. South

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Korea also boasts the world's 3rd largest steel producer, POSCO and is the
5th largest automobile manufacturing nation, headed by Hyundai-Kia
Automotive Group. South Korea is the world's largest shipbuilder, led by
several multinational corporations such as Hyundai Heavy Industries and
Samsung Heavy Industries. Other important industries of South Korea
include robotics and biotechnology, with the world's second humanoid
robot, EveR-1 and the world's first cloned dog, Snuppy.

The ROK participates in the international community in every aspect and

continues to work to increase its role in regional and global political affairs.
The ROK maintains diplomatic relations with approximately 170 countries.
It has also been a member of the United Nations since 1991. On January 1,
2007, the ROK Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon assumed the post of UN
Secretary-General. It has also developed links with the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations as both a member of "ASEAN Plus three" and the
East Asia Summit.

To deter and fight against transnational terrorism, the ROK supports the US
Global War on Terror (GWOT) and actively participates in numerous
international anti-terrorism initiatives. It supported US goals in Afghanistan
and maintained the third-largest foreign troop contingent in Iraq through
most of 2007. Additionally, it leads a Coalition Provincial Reconstruction
Team in Iraq’s Irbil Province. In November 2006, the ROK joined other
APEC member nations in endorsing US security initiatives on aviation
security, bioterrorism and food defense, and the protection of commercial
and financial sectors from abuse by proliferators of weapons of mass
destruction. It also actively participates in regional training and capacity
building programs. The Korean government has hosted representatives from
the Middle East, Latin America, and elsewhere in Asia for training in crime
prevention, criminal justice, counter-terrorism, forensic science, anti-piracy
and terrorism management, prevention of money laundering, and narcotics
law enforcement (Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism 2007 and
2008, Ch. 2).

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Foreign Population in the ROK.

The ROK’s population (approximately 48.85 million) is one of the most

ethnically and linguistically homogenous in the world. It does, however,
have a small foreign population – about 1.5%. According to the Ministry of
Government Administration and Home Affairs, foreigners residing in the
ROK totaled 722,686 as of August 2007, a 35% increase over 2006 figures
(536,627) (See Figure 1). This survey only took into account the foreigners
who have visas that allow them to reside in the ROK longer than 90 days.
Other surveys (mostly conducted by the NGOs) estimate there are over one
million foreigners residing in the ROK, which includes over 200,000 illegal
residents. The majority of these illegal residents possess expired visas with
shorter than 90-day dwell periods; therefore, they were not a part of the
official ROK government survey conducted in August 2007 (ROK Ministry
of Government Administration and Home Affairs 2007 and Korea Islamic

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Employees of multinational companies, foreign students, and skill laborers

accounted for 276,608 (38.27%) (see Figure 2). Unskilled workers
accounted for 259,805 (35.9%) (see Figure 3). However one should not
associate the term unskilled workers with uneducated. Unskilled workers in
the ROK also include industrial trainees, and a large number of them
possess undergraduate degrees (quite a large number of these degrees are in
sciences and engineering). Of over 700,000 residents, 64.4% live in the
Greater Seoul Metropolitan Area (Seoul – 28.7%; Gyeong-gi Province –
29.7%; Incheon – 6.0%) (ROK Ministry of Government Administration and
Home Affairs 2007 and Korea Islamic Foundation).

The 2007 ROK government survey also indicated that the majority of
foreigners with an Islamic background were employed as unskilled laborers
in the ROK (see Figure 3). Of approximately 150,000 Muslims in the ROK,
approximately 110,000 are non-Koreans (0.2% of ROK population and
14.5% of total foreign population in the ROK) – most of whose ages are
between mid-20 and late-30’s, and are in the ROK as unskilled workers or
industrial interns. Both the ROK government’s and the KIF’s data show
steady increases in foreigners with Islamic background residing in the

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ROK over the past five years.

Also, according to KIF, a majority of the ROK’s Islamic religious leaders

tend to have fundamentalist views, and they tend to be middle-class
academics with Ph.D. degrees from universities in the Middle East – similar
to the composition of Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East (ROK
Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs 2007 and Korea
Islamic Foundation). Muslim leaders responsible for the radicalization of
Islam in Southeast Asia have similar characteristics as the Muslim leaders in
the ROK, and much of funding for both the ROK and Southeast Asian
Islamic religious activities come from the Muslim World League
headquartered in Saudi Arabia, which promotes Wahhabism – a strict Salafi
form of Islam (Abuza 2003).

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Cultural Divide.

The ROK government survey indicates that the foreigners in Korea tend to
live in enclaves and not mingle with the Korean population (ROK Ministry
of Government Administration and Home Affairs 2007). This implies that
many foreigners residing in the ROK tend to live in diaspora communities
and do not assimilate into the ROK society at large. This leads these
communities to become isolated, and isolation allows them to shun
traditional Korean culture and society. For many living in these
communities, therefore, the ROK is merely a place of residence and not one
of belonging.

The attitudes of Korean society toward foreigners do not help reduce this
sense of alienation – perceived or real. Despite the steady increase of
foreigners in the ROK since the late-80s, and the increased number of
Koreans willing to tolerate foreign cultures and foreigners today compared
to ten, or even five years ago, a majority of the ROK population remains
apathetic, if not averse, toward everything foreign.

Korean people are also very sensitive to class and religious differences, and
have a tendency to belittle those who are perceived to be of lower class
economically, educationally, or socially (with most Koreans perceiving
Islam and Islamic countries as being educationally and socially inferior).
These tendencies, coupled with Korean people’s cultural propensity to
outwardly balk at other cultures and people (especially those from China,
Japan, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East), are
just a few of many factors that could make foreigners working and living in
the ROK feel that they are in a hostile and isolated environment.

Chosun-Ilbo, ROK’s most circulated newspaper, ran an article on its January

01, 2008 edition titled, “Is Korea Still an Isolated ‘Island Nation’?” The
article criticized numerous problems that foreigners residing in the ROK
face daily as they lead their lives. The article reported on interviews of 50
foreigners who are in the ROK as company executives, employees of
multinational corporations, university professors, teachers, and students.

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The consensus of those interviewed was, “Not only is it difficult to

communicate in Korea, simple daily activities such as finding your way
around town, using a credit card, buying a cellular phone, and using the
internet are very inconvenient; moreover, the Korean society as a whole is
not considerate of different needs foreigners may have living in Korea.”
(Chosun-Ilbo 2008)

Consequently, for those who live within these enclaves, there tends to be an
increased desire to bond with others who share the same culture, values, and
religion. This is precisely the environment needed for the radical jihadi-
Salafis to recruit and radicalize young, susceptible Muslims and turn them
into warriors of jihad.

Possible Support to Terrorism.

There have not been any reports that indicate terrorist activities,
“homegrown” or otherwise, in the ROK. However, the possibility does exist
that there may be elements of the ROK society, wittingly or unwittingly,
involved in supporting transnational terrorist or terrorist-supporting
organizations operating in or outside of the ROK.

The Muslim World League (MWL, or Rabita from Rabita al-Alam al-
Islami), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and the
International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) have permanently
established offices, and have active membership in the ROK.

The Muslim World League (MWL).

The MWL is an Islamic non-governmental organization founded in 1962

and based in Saudi Arabia. Its objectives are “to disseminate Islamic
Dawah and expound the teachings to Islam” and “to defend Islamic causes
in a manner that safeguards the interests and aspirations of Muslims, solves
their problems, refutes false allegations against Islam, and repels inimical
trends and dogma which the enemies of Islam seek to exploit in order to
destroy the unity of Muslims and to sow seeds of doubt in our Muslim

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brethren. (The Saudi Arabia Information Resource and Korea Muslim

Federation). The MWL promotes Wahhabism, the strict Salafi form of Islam
practiced in Saudi Arabia.

In the 1980s, the MWL’s Pakistan office was run by Mohammed Jamal
Khalifa. He was a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a brother-
in-law of Osama bin Laden. Khalifa was the co-founder of the Benevolence
International Foundation, and he helped to finance Operation Bojinka, a
foiled 1995 plot that would have simultaneously detonated bombs aboard 11
US-bound airliners, blowing them up in mid-flight over the Pacific Ocean
and the South China Sea (

The MWL at one time oversaw Rabita Trust, a now-defunct charity whose
professed purpose was to give aid to Afghani refugees in Pakistan. The trust
came under investigation by the US Senate Finance Committee based on
evidence that it had knowingly funded terrorist groups. Today, the MWL
oversees the WAMY, one of the vehicles suspected of financing Islamic
extremism and international terrorism ( WAMY
has been an active Islamic entity in the ROK since 1983.

International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO).

The IIRO is one of eight subsidiary bodies of the MWL. It is a charity

based in Saudi Arabia (World Muslim League 2008 and Korea Muslim
Federation 2008). The United Nations and others have associated the IIRO
with terrorism. At the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the
US, Steven Emerson identified IIRO as a major radical Islamic institution, in
part, “responsible for fueling Islamic militancy around the world,” and
Rohan Gunaratna, Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies, Singapore,
stated: “Mohammad Jamal Khalifa is the brother-in-law of Osama bin
Laden. He arrived in the Philippines in 1988 and he became the first
director, the founding director, of the International Islamic Relief
Organization of Saudi Arabia. He used the IIRO to funnel Al-Qaeda funds
to the Abu Sayyaf group and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.” (US
Congress 2002 and Gunaratna 2003). The Philippine and Indonesian

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branches of IIRO are included on a list of proscribed individuals and entities

associated with the Taliban or al-Qaeda, maintained by United Nations
Security Council Committee 1267, also known as the Al-Qaeda and Taliban
Sanctions Committee (The United Nations Security Council Committee
established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999) concerning Al-Qaida and the
Taliban and Associated Individuals 2008).

In April 2004, the ROK government deported five Bangladeshi nationals

after intelligence officials uncovered a network initially described as
facilitating illegal foreign workers in the ROK to find jobs and conduct
activities described as “anti-South Korean.” In October 2004, a
representative of the ROK Parliament revealed to the media that the five
Bangladeshi men who were deported earlier were the founders and key
leaders of a 500-member organization called Dawatul Islamia of Korea, a
South Korea branch of the Jama’at-e-Islami-Bangladesh (JEI(B). JEIB is a
political party espousing Islamic fundamentalism and it is reportedly having
connections with the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami of Bangladesh, a US State
Department level-II terrorist organization designee (7). Dawatul Islamia of
Korea was said to have headquartered at the Anyang Rabita Al-Alam Al-
Islamic Masjid in Anyang, ROK, a small industrial city approximately 20
kilometers south of Seoul, Korea (The Korea Times 2004 and South Asia
Terrorism Portal). According to the KIF and Korea Muslim Federation
(KMF) websites, the Anyang Mosque is currently operated by Bangladeshi
and Pakistani Muslim workers independent of the KIF and KMF (Korea
Islamic Foundation and Korea Muslim Federation).

On July 4, 2008, the KNPA arrested two Afghans, three Pakistanis, and four
Koreans who had tried to use South Korea as a shipping point for several
tons of acetic anhydride destined for southern Afghanistan. The key Afghan
suspect admitted to the police that he was acting at the instigation of the
Taliban, but he claimed he was not a member of the Taliban. The KNPA
stated that the orders did come from the Taliban, and the operation seemed
to have been funded through accounts with suspected links through hawala
networks (Yonhap News Agency 2008).

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On July 19, 2007, the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) broke up a
hawala network and arrested 10 Bangladeshi nationals in Suwon for
conducting illicit financial activity. According to the KNPA, this particular
hawala network was operational from September 2004 to July 2007.
Throughout its operational period, the network had established ghost import-
export companies in Seoul and Gyeonggi areas (KNPA found over 100
accounts associated with these companies) servicing over 3,000 clients. It
had conducted more than 32,000 transactions between the ROK and
Bangladesh, totaling 1.1 billion USD (Yonhap News Agency 2007).

Hawala networks are not uncommon in the ROK (8). Most clients of
hawala are immigrants for the legitimate purpose of sending money to
relatives and friends back home. Some users, however, exploit the system to
launder money for illicit activities. Drug dealers in the United States, for
example, have relied on hawala to send profits of drug sales to arms dealers
abroad. Basically, the hawala system can be used as an end user tool for
terrorists to transfer money for operational purposes (Brisard 2002, 9).

Conclusions and Policy Recommendations.

The ROK to date has not suffered any known incident of Islamic-inspired
terrorism, “homegrown” or otherwise, within its borders; however, the
Islamic Jihadists have demonstrated intent and motivation to strike at the
ROK interests abroad. Today, many if not all of the necessary pre-
conditions for “homegrown” terrorism are already well established in the

Though only accounting for a small portion of the ROK population,

foreigners in the ROK live in diaspora communities and have little
interaction with the Korean people. Many live in substandard housing and
have to endure appalling work conditions. Many also face discrimination,
exploitation and abuse from their employers and the surrounding Korean
community. These conditions have caused migrant workers to desert their
employment and become undocumented. As of 2007, an estimated half of
all migrant workers in the ROK were undocumented (Liem 2007). For

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jihadi-Salafis looking to recruit, these discontented migrant workers are

prime targets of opportunity.

It is well known that jihadi-Salafis hide their terroristic intentions behind

visible, mostly legitimate, business or charities. They raise money, recruit
and train operatives by abusing religious activities and donations, traditional
Islamic banking systems (such as hawala), and the global economy (Brisard
2002, 3). Islamic religious and humanitarian organizations have been used to
funnel funds to transnational terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda.
Numerous governments and international agencies have identified both
MWL and IIRO as terrorist-supporting organizations. The WAMY, a
subsidiary of MWL, is also suspected of providing support to international
terrorists. The JEI(B), while not on any terrorist or terrorist-supporting
organizations list, certainly seems to have strong ties to terrorist

The existence of these organizations alone does not translate into the
presence of terrorist or terrorist-supporting individuals and organizations in
the ROK. However, given these organizations’ ties to terrorism elsewhere
in the world, the fact that the majority of the ROK’s Islamic leaders tend to
have fundamentalist views, and the sense of disaffection and discontent
experienced by many migrant residents in the ROK, the environment does
exist in the ROK where radical religious leaders and Islamic extremists have
a relatively large pool of young, susceptible and alienated Muslims to recruit
and exploit in the name of religion and ideology.

While there is no evidence of active homegrown extremist activity in the

ROK, many if not all of the necessary pre-conditions are already well
established, and the emergence of such individuals or organizations in the
future is certainly a worrisome possibility.

The ROK must develop and implement a coherent program with two key
elements to abate the possibility of such emergence: increased vigilance
against possible terrorism related activities and outreach measures to the
migrant communities and the ROK society at large.

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The ROK currently does not have comprehensive anti-terrorism legislation.

The ROK’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) has pushed for a bill since
2001, but the bill has faced strong resistance and criticism due to fears that
such legislation could violate human rights and give too much power to the
NIS, which most Koreans still distrust due to its past record of human rights
abuses. There is little doubt that the ROK needs some form of legislation
that addresses the issue of anti- and counter-terrorism so that it can be better
prepared to detect, respond to, and deal more effectively with any future
terrorist events. The ROK government should continue to refine and move
forward to adopt and implement its pending legislation while being ever so
cognizant of the necessity that any such legislation must balance the need to
increase the NIS’ and law enforcement agencies’ abilities to deter and react
to terrorism while protecting the rights of everyone who resides in the ROK
(including those who may be suspected or accused of plotting or carrying
out terrorist activity).

Just as important are the outreach measures to the migrant communities.

Although social and labor problems foreigners, especially migrant workers,
in the ROK face – such as discrimination, physical and verbal abuses,
hazardous work conditions, and unpaid wages – continue, the ROK
government should be applauded for its efforts to address them. The ROK
is the first country in Asia to protect the rights of migrant workers under law
in 2004, and it continues to revise the law to better reflect the changing
dynamics and needs of the migrant population.

In 2007, the ROK Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE,

which changed its name to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy in 2008)
embarked on a five-year project to improve the living conditions of migrant
workers after it was identified that most foreigners were dissatisfied with
Korea’s transportation, medical, education, and housing environments.
Recently, some local governments and neighborhoods started sponsoring
cultural events to promote cross-cultural understanding and unity. The
measures and events noted above, and others like them, serve as an excellent
launching point to improve the overall living environment of foreigners and
their perception of Korean society; therefore, the ROK government must

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seize the momentum and implement an aggressive and coherent outreach

program that will allow the foreigners to feel that they are a part of Korean
society, not just as residents or workers but as valuable, contributing
members of the society. Admittedly, outreach programs may only be
effective upon those who are not already radicalized; nevertheless, they
serve as an essential piece in prevention of terrorism.

Though the fight against terrorism cannot succeed unless the policy
addresses deterrence, response, and outreach, in the long term, “softer”
outreach policies, in general, pays higher dividends than the “harder” anti-
and counter-terrorism policies. Although a lot of the terrorists have shown
to be educated middle-class Muslims who are self-radicalized for ideological
reasons, any effort in swaying the population away from elements of
radicalization would result in reduced recruitment and support base, which
in turn makes it that much more difficult for the terrorists and would-be-
terrorists to operate in a given area.

Recognizing the threat of terrorism from the Islamists outside of the Korean
Peninsula, and the need to prepare for the potential of terrorist attack within
Korea, the ROK military, law enforcement, and government agencies have
established close working relationships with the USFK to address issues of
terrorism within and outside the Korean Peninsula. Cooperation between
the USFK and the ROK military during the hostage crisis in Afghanistan in
2007 was a prime example. Today, the USFK remains vigilant, and
continues to work closely with the ROK partners, to fight and defeat any
terrorist activity against the US and the ROK interests on the Korean
Peninsula and globally.

Acknowledgement. Thanks to Mr. Chris Nelson of Samuels International, Mr.
Evans Revere of the Korea Society and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges of Ewha
Womans University for wonderful recommendations and sharp critiques that
contributed greatly to the improvement of this paper.

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Military and Associated Terms. Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense.

12. Kaplan, Eben. 2007. American Muslims and the Threat of Homegrown
Terrorism. Council on Foreign Relations.

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13. Klinger, Bruce. Asia Times, 2004. South Korea Braces for Taste of Terror.
October 15.

14. Koerner, Brendan I. 2003. What Kind of Terrorism Does North Korea
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15. Liem, Wol-san. The Korea Times, (3/7/07). “Korean Life Challenges Migrant

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Terrorism 2006, Chapter 2. Washington, D.C.: US Department of State

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Terrorism 2007, Chapter 2. Washington, D.C.: US Department of State

20. Silber, Mitchell, and Arvin Bhatt. 2007. Radicalization in the West: The
Homegrown Threat. New York: New York City Police Department.

21. SITE Intelligence Group, Inc. 2005. March 30


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Administration and Home Affairs (released 2/08/07)).

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24. The Korea Times, (25/10/04). Anti-Korean Group Linked to Bangladesh

Islamic Party.

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25. U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. Committee on Financial Services

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31. Yonhap News Agency, (4/07/07). “Korean Police Arrest Drug Smugglers
Linked to Taliban”.


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Steve S. Sin’s endnotes

1 This article only examined possible Islamic extremist threat to the ROK;
therefore, when the author refers to homegrown terrorism or extremism, it refers
specifically to homegrown Islamic terrorism or extremism.
2 The White House’s National Strategy for Combating Terrorism states the
main terrorist threat today comes from those who “exploit Islam and use terrorism
for ideological ends” (US National Security Council 2006, 5). Since September 11,
2001, governments around the world have made numerous advances in the way they
combat terrorism, albeit there still is a lot of room for improvement. As with any
conflict, the threat, in this case the radical Islamic Jihadists, continues to evolve, and
has introduced a new variable to the battlefield – homegrown terrorism.
3 The US Congress defines homegrown terrorism as the use, planned use, or
threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based
and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United
States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population
of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social
objectives (US Congress 2007). The US Department of Defense defines terrorism as
the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate
fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of
goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological (Department of the Army
1990 and Department of Defense 2001-2007). For the purposes of this essay,
homegrown terrorism will be defined as the use, planned use, or threatened use of
force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or living primarily within the
host country to intimidate or coerce the host country’s government or the civilian
population for furtherance of political or social objectives.
4 On March 30, 2005, an online message posted on the internet by Al-Qaeda
in Iraq revealed a revitalized Al-Qaeda policy designed to defeat the enemy through
heightened attacks against Italy, Spain, Britain, Japan, and the ROK. The message
discussed in detail the reasons for stepping up attacks on US allies and asserted that
such attacks would erode support and severely drain the enemy’s economic
resources. “For now,” the message urged, “take some of the small allies inside Iraq
and Afghanistan. Later, go for the big ones: US, Britain, and Australia” (SITE
Intelligence Group, Inc. 2005). On October 15, 2004, Seoul increased its domestic
and overseas terror alert status after terrorist threats. The ROK’s National
Intelligence Service (NIS) assessed that Al-Qaeda and its associated groups’ sphere

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of operations was slowly moving from the Middle East and Southeast Asia,
increasing its attention on Northeast Asia, and said there was an increasing
possibility of terrorist attacks on US allies – Japan and the ROK. The latest threat
came from an unknown group called the Martyr Hammoud Al-Masri Battalion,
which identified itself as Al-Qaeda’s network in South and East Asia. It warned on
an Arabic-language website that it would “make Korea suffer” both in Iraq and at
home if ROK troops were not pulled out of Iraq within 14 days. The group claimed
to have already stationed itself inside Seoul and to be “awaiting the zero hour”. On
October 1, 2004, al-Jazeera television broadcasted footage from Al-Qaeda calling
on all Muslims to attack the ROK, along with the US, the United Kingdom,
Australia, Poland and Norway. In the broadcast, Al-Qaeda blamed those countries
for the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya. A ROK military official stated
that Iraqi insurgent groups were promising an 8,000 USD bounty for each ROK
soldier or citizen taken hostage. A ROK government spokesman warned that the
country had become a serious and actual target of an international terrorist attack,
with threats increasing steadily. National Assembly lawmakers stated that terrorist
threats against ROK airlines had risen dramatically from five in 2003 to twenty
during the first nine months of 2004. In October 2004, the ROK Defense Ministry
reported to the National Assembly’s defense committee that the ROK had been
targeted 67 times for terror attacks in the first seven months of 2004. The report also
indicated that the country had implemented 199 intelligence alerts for possible terror
attacks since 1999. The ROK raised its alert status in January 2004 after a threat was
mailed to its embassy in Thailand. The letter from a group calling itself the “Anti-
Korean Interests Agency” threatened terrorist attacks against ROK airlines,
companies, and organizations throughout Southeast Asia. The ROK’s NIS revealed
in December 2003 that operatives from an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group had recently
infiltrated the country to conduct preliminary preparations for attacks on US
military installations and ROK airliners and airports. The NIS reported to the
National Assembly’s Committee on Intelligence regarding other reported
infiltrations and concluded that Al-Qaeda-affiliated infiltrations had become more
frequent. The continued revelations of Al-Qaeda infiltrations into the ROK raised
the concern that Islamic terrorist groups may be planning, to bring the “war on
terror” to the ROK. (Klinger 2004)
5 The use of the word “jihad” in this paper means specifically the lesser jihad
(i.e. military) and not the greater (i.e. inner) jihad.

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6 Mitchell Silberand Arvin Bhatt, Radicalization in the West: The

Homegrown Threat (New York: New York City Police Department 2007), 16.
7 The US State Department designated Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami of
Bangladesh (HuJI-B) as a level-II terrorist organization in 2003. The Bangladeshi
government designated the HuJI-B as a terrorist organization in October 2005. In
March 2008, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice upgraded HuJI-B’s
terrorist status, under which the organization’s assets in the US and in US controlled
territories would be frozen, and anyone associated with it would not be entitled to a
US visa.
8 According to the 2007 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
(INCSR), the ROK Customs Service has reported over 1,000 hawala cases annually
since 2002. According to the latest available ROK Customs Service report, dated
October 2006, there were 1,901 cases worth 3.47 billion USD in 2005. (Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs 2007)


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