Massive Security For Seoul Olympics
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Security plans for the 1988 Summer Olympics sound more like preparations for a war than the world’s greatest sports event.
The 24th Olympic Games will be protected by massive security to guard against possible threats from North Korea and international terrorists. The divided Korean peninsula is one of the world’s most volatile areas with South and North Korea locked in a struggle for supremacy that often turns violent.
Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, elite commandos, security agents and police will guard the Olympics with an arsenal ranging from aircraft carriers to sniffer dogs. The United States will beef up its forces in the area to help protect the Games.
″The Olympics have always been a target for terrorists,″ said a senior security official. ″Now, we also have the threat from the north.″
Communist North Korea has demanded to co-host the Olympics and said it will boycott the Games if the demand is not met. South Korea and the United States have accused the north of increasing tension to try to disrupt the Games.
″We can understand your need for tension. It is part of your effort to undermine the Olympics,″ U.S. Navy Rear Admiral William Pendley told North Korean delegates at an April 1 meeting.
A self-confessed North Korean agent held by the south said she planted a bomb on a Korean Air (KAL) plane that was destroyed Nov. 29 with the deaths of all 115 people aboard. Kim Hyun-hui said she acted on orders of top North Korean leaders trying to wreck the Games.
The north, which denied any involvement in the KAL bombing, has been implicated in many attacks, including a bombing at Seoul’s Kimpo Airport on the eve of the 1986 Asian Games that killed five people.
North Korea’s call for a communist boycott of the Games to back its co- hosting demand failed after the Soviet Union and China said they would participate. South Korea still hopes the north will take part, and it will keep the door open until the last moment.
A record 161 nations are to take part in the Games from Sept. 17 to Oct 2. It will be the first time in 12 years the United States and the Soviet Union both will compete in the Summer Games.
South Korean and Olympic officials are confident they can ensure the safety of the Games by making it the most heavily guarded sports event in history.
Some 120,000 military and police personnel will guard the actual Games. They will be equipped with 117,000 pieces of equipment ranging from sophisticated devices to detect liquid explosives and gas guns that can fire through concrete walls.
Elite commandos, their faces hidden by black hoods, have spent months practicing in the Olympic venues to deal with any possible threats. The commandos specialize in scaling down ropes head first with guns drawn in lightning assaults.
Special combat police have been standing guard at the stadiums around the clock since last year. Spectators entering the stadiums will be searched. Explosive detectors are positioned at all gates.
The athlete’s village, which will house about 3,700 athletes and coaches, is ringed by two fences with electronic sensors that detect intruders and alert security headquarters. Guards will patrol the fences around the clock while troops keep watch from guardtowers.
Officials admit excessive security could be a problem and that the athletes village will resemble a fortress. They say there is no alternative.
″The security of the athletes’ village is very important. It will be the safest area,″ said Hwang Kyu-woong, director general for security of the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee.
Civilian volunteers, many of them speaking foreign languages, are being recruited to help smooth security checks and reassure visitors. ″We will try to have people smile,″ Hwang said.
An even bigger security operation will be mounted across the nation by the 650,000-strong South Korean armed forces. Naval and air patrols will be stepped up and army units on the North Korean border will go on alert.
The United States is to reinforce its 40,000 troops in the south and U.S. military forces in the region will be on alert. Two powerful U.S. Navy aircraft carrier groups are expected to patrol offshore.
American spy satellites reportedly will be redeployed to keep a special watch on North Korean military movements for any signs of a military buildup or other potential threats.
South Korean, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies are keeping a special watch for possible attempts by international terrorists to disrupt the Games. Entry to South Korea will be strictly controlled.
″It won’t be easy to get into Seoul,″ said Hwang.
A member of Japan’s Red Army terrorist group was arrested in Tokyo late last year as he prepared for a trip to Seoul. South Korean officials say the group, which has ties to North Korea, could be planning an attack.
The Red Army, dormant for many years, was blamed for an April 14 bombing in Naples that killed five people. A suspected Red Army member was arrested in New Jersey a few days later after police found bombs in his car.
South Korean officials say the participation of the Soviet Union and China in the Olympics should discourage any North Korean attack during the Games for fear of hurting its allies’ athletes. The main threat, they say, could come before the Games.
But some security officials say the spectacle of communist teams in Seoul could infuriate the north’s unpredictable leadership and trigger a provocation.
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