Korean Embassy Protection Raise after North Terror Alert

This photo shows building inside South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh. Photo: Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh/Facebook

PHNOM PENH – An alleged North Korean terror threat against South Korean diplomats in Phnom Penh has prompted Cambodia to increase protection of the South’s embassy.

South Korea’s government raised its terror alert level for five diplomatic missions on May 22. These also included its embassies in Laos and Vietnam, as well as consulates in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok and the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang.

The South’s Foreign Ministry said the country’s terror watch level was raised to “alert” status, the second-highest level in a four-tier system, indicating a high possibility of a terrorist attack. 

Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Chum Sounry said recently that the government close pays attention to the news “concerning the security of all foreign missions in Cambodia”.

“With that in mind, the ministry stands ready to cooperate closely with the concerned missions to address this issue. As a principle, we do not discuss in public this sensitive issue nor the measures to be taken.”

Ministry of Interior spokesperson Touch Sokhak said there was continuous vigilance in safeguarding diplomatic missions. 

“Based on the information we received, we don’t need to wait for a request because we always ensure protection and prevention and monitor the details relating to each embassy’s security,” he said. 

“We will add more protection to ensure the safety of the embassy.” No anomalies had been detected in Cambodia so far.

A spokesman for the South Korean Embassy said there were multiple signs that North Korea is preparing terrorist attacks on staff of diplomatic missions or Korean nationals in several regions including China, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The terror alert level had been raised based on this assessment,

“The Korean government is making every effort to ensure the safety of our diplomatic missions, staff, and overseas Koreans following the heightening of the terror alert level,” the spokesperson said.  

“Please understand that we are unable to share specific details due to the sensitive nature of security-related matters.” 

Seng Vanly, an international relations observer in the Asia Pacific, said the terror alert was unclear but was due to setback in the relationship of those target countries with Pyongyang, particularly Cambodia. It could also make their relationships worse.  

“Cambodia-North Korea relations recently are not good after Cambodia decided not to appoint a new ambassador to North Korea, and North Korea business in Cambodia is harmed since Cambodia's government is restricting its activities,” Vanly said. 

Rim Sokvy, an independent researcher based in Phnom Penh recently quoted by CamboJA,  expressed confidence in the credibility of the intelligence regarding the threat, noting its source from South Korea's spy agency. 

Furthermore, citing North Korea's record of hostile acts such as bombings, hijackings, assassinations, and kidnappings targeting dissenters of the regime and its leadership, he underscored the seriousness of the situation.

A North Korea official in Cambodia said the South Korean warning was fake news and slander. 

In a phone call with a journalist on Tuesday of last week, the official, who did not give his name, said, “It was invented and framed us, North Korea. Beside that, I do not have anything more to say to you.” 

However, Ly Kimlong, the president of Cambodia-DPRK Friendship Association said the South Korea’s government was “a puppet state of the American Imperialist” and all its activities were under US supervision.

“Therefore, it is not the Korean people who are concerned and this decision was not made by the people of Korea. 

“It is a decision made by the White House and the Pentagon,” he said via X (formerly Twitter). 

“DPR Korea has the right to protect itself and the right to test new technology in its territory. As long as the US keeps their hands on the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, the DPRK will continue its Songun and Juche ideology.” 

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