South Korea is taking extra measures to try to ensure the safety of the 2018 Winter Games, including setting up a crack cyber defence team and doubling the number of troops.
South Korea’s Defence Ministry will deploy some 5,000 armed forces personnel at the Games, double the 2,400 on duty during the 2002 World Cup, which South Korea co-hosted with Japan, according to government officials.
Pyeongchang’s organising committee for the 2018 Games (POCOG) is also selecting a private cyber security company to guard against a hacking attack from the North, tender documents show.
The committee is seeking to fast-track the selection as tensions rise in the wake of South Korea’s controversial deployment of the U.S. THAAD anti-missile system, and as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un tests weapons at an unprecendented rate.
“Cyber threats have increased due to external factors such as the THAAD deployment and recent North Korean missile launches,” the committee said in the document.
South Korea has blamed the North for a series of hacking attempts in the last few years, including a 2013 cyber attack against South Korean banks and broadcasters that froze computer systems for more than a week. Pyongyang denied any responsibility.
The POCOG is reportedly hiring a private security contractor, stipulating the firm should be capable of running around 500 personnel to operate X-ray screening each day during the event.
It has earmarked 20 billion won (US$17.6 million) for the screening security measures and another 1.3 billion won for the cyber security protection, according to the documents.
An official from the National Intelligence Service, South Korea’s spy agency, is in charge of security operations, working with the government’s anti-terrorism centre, the organising committee’s spokeswoman told Reporters.
South Korea has also created a new Special Weapons and Tactics team to guard against terrorism around the Games, Asia’s first Winter Olympics outside Japan.
“We will search Olympic venues to check for bombs, protect athletes and visitors, and guard against any attempts to assassinate key figures,” Jin Jeong-hyeon, a police inspector from the SWAT team, told Reporters.
Chang Ung, North Korea’s IOC member, said earlier this month that the Pyeongchang Olympics will not be affected by the escalating crisis on the peninsula and North Korea will hopefully be able to send athletes. Figure skating, short track speed skating and Nordic skiing could potentially feature North Korean athletes, he said.
Despite the heightened security measures, there isn’t a lot South Korea can do to reassure participants, said Lee Soo-hyuck, a former foreign affairs presidential secretary.
“This issue is more about whether North Korea would decide to carry out hostile actions or not.”