Shim Jae Hoon at PostGlobal

Shim Jae Hoon

South Korea

Shim Jae Hoon is a Seoul-based journalist and commentator writing for a variety of international publications including YaleGlobal Online, The Straits Times of Singapore, The Taipei Times and Korea Herald. He was a correspondent for Far Eastern Economic Review in Seoul, Taipei and Jakarta. Close.

Shim Jae Hoon

South Korea

Shim Jae Hoon is a Seoul-based journalist and commentator writing for a variety of international publications including YaleGlobal Online, The Straits Times of Singapore, The Taipei Times and Korea Herald. more »

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Iraq Exports Weapons of Desperation

Seoul, South Korea -- East Asian cities like Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore, where high standards of public security are maintained, are relatively safe from the threat of car bombing. Car bombing has developed mainly as a unique weapon of desperation in the hands, mostly, of Islamic extremists. It is seldom used by their peers from other religious groups.

Consider the case of Buddhist-dominated Sri Lanka where a Tamil-Sinhalese war has been in progress for a very long time. Bombings and shootings occur routinely in the capital city of Colombo, including an aircraft strafing some weeks ago, but car bombing has been relatively infrequent and limited. Bomb attacks of course occur in the Buddhist city of Bangkok, but in areas mostly under Muslim separatist control.

Not only are bomb-making and planning attacks harder to carry out in communities with a high level of transparency and civic mindedness, East Asia's tight family system and secular education help to produce a better restraining effect. In general, terrorists in East Asia have made a greater effort to limit casualties, to avoid killing or maiming people not directly connected to their targets. This undoubtedly underscores their political motivation -- they use terrorism as a means to send a political message, not to sow blind intimidation, which can backfire when targets refuse to be intimidated. A prime example may be the case of Vietcong terrorists in South Vietnam. Terrorism for them was foremost a weapon for making a political statement, not for the sake of causing terror per se. So it was used selectively and more sparingly, not in a wanton and self-destructive way as it seems to be used today in Ramallah or Baghdad.

The timing and manner of the attack in Glasgow and the plot in London this time suggest an aim of hurting or killing as many people as possible, whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims. Car bombing in London is an extension of the profuse bombing in Baghdad, which will undoubtedly spread to other cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Karachi that have a sizable Islamic population with political grievances close to their homelands.

In East Asian cities, such attacks would have politically devastating impacts, hardening governments and bringing communities together, prompting a variety of backlashes from all sectors of the society. The response would be more comprehensive, resulting in tightened surveillance over suspect individuals and community groups, severe restrictions placed on immigration procedures, and a great deal of cooperation on the part of the citizenry.

I am by no means implying that any of these measures are lacking or insufficiently enforced in London; only to say that East Asian cities are much more homogeneous than London in terms of population demographics and the size of Muslim communities they host; they tend to be culturally more monochrome and interconnected. That said, I have no answer to the question of why similar car bombing or metro attacks have not yet occurred in other European cities with sizable Muslim populations -- for example in Paris, Berlin, or Rome. Is it simply because they have no troops in Iraq? Perhaps others can answer this question.

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