COEX receives threat from ISIS

Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS), a terrorist group that gained notoriety in 2014 for its mass killings, abductions, and beheadings, threatened to bomb COEX, a large shopping mall complex on Oct. 25. In an alleged posting on social media, the group threatened to detonate explosives on the Sunday of that week, although no specific time was mentioned. In order to prevent severe damage to visitors and workers of this large public area, COEX has strengthened its private security.

“I’m not surprised that ISIS would do such a thing because they have been posting threats on social media ever since they were active,” said Jeffrey Park (11), Forensics member. “However, I’m not exactly sure of the reason they would choose COEX as the location of their terror attack. Korea is affiliated with western countries, but it has never been in the spotlight for any anti-Islamic sentiments that could make it a viable target. If they do successfully bomb COEX, there seems to be little political message achieved either.”

Even though ISIS made its presence known over the last year by actively using social networking to publicize its violent acts, news about the attack did not gain too much publicity in South Korea. According to the Korea Times, this could be due to the overwhelming presence of skepticism in Korea. Since the nation has frequently been under threats from North Korea in past decades, most citizens do not see the need to be overly concerned or believe in such threats.

“Even though I constantly hear about ISIS in the news, I’ve always felt like it was something very distant,” Debora Kim (12) said. “I didn’t know until a few days [before the alleged date] that ISIS planned to attack COEX, and my immediate reaction was doubt rather than panic. Even if the threat was true, I think that there are numerous ways to avoid the attack, especially because the security is so strong right now. I’m was not too anxious then, and my friends were not talking about it, so I’m guessing it was not their main concern either.”

No substantial attacks were made on COEX, proving many officials’ predictions correct. According to Yonhap News, the intelligence regarding news of the attack was received through the National Intelligence Service (NIS), which cited information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Even though most officials believed the attack was highly unlikely, they could not take risks and therefore strengthened the security accordingly.