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South Korea Sends Condolences to London, Prepares Security for November APEC Summit


South Korea officials have sent condolences over the London attacks, while taking steps to cushion any impact the bombings may have on the country's economy. Meanwhile, security forces are preparing for South Korea's own gathering of world leaders, scheduled for November.

Even as South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun was sending a letter of condolence to British Prime Minister Tony Blair over the deadly bombings in London, the South Korean Finance Ministry was setting up a task force to deal with any financial repercussions.

Ministry Spokesperson Song Kyung-jin said "they're actually closely monitoring the movement of major stock markets, and financial markets, and oil prices. We think the markets have been stabilizing."

The London attacks, apparently timed to coincide with the opening of the G-8 summit in Scotland, provided a timely reminder of what South Korean security forces are hoping to prevent later this year. This country is scheduled to host November's summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, in the port city of Busan.

Heads of government from the entire Pacific region, including President Bush, are expected to attend. Even before the events in London, South Korea's National Police were putting out the word that they are ready.

Elite South Korean commandos recently showed off their ability to neutralize terrorist hostage-takers in a demonstration for journalists.

Huh Joon-young, Commissioner-General of the South Korean National Police, said security forces have to be ready for any contingency. Commissioner Huh says police are not focusing their attention on one narrow set of possibilities, but preparing for a wide spectrum of potential terrorist attacks.

Paul Jordan, Operations Director for the Australia-based AKE group, was a counter-terrorist planner for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He said securing a major event like the summit is a multi-pronged task. "You need visible security to act as a deterrent, but you also need people who aren't visible - covert operators. You've got intelligence within the government, and the military, and the police - people all over. And quite often, you don't really know what everyone else is doing," he said.

In addition to fine tuning security at home, South Korea is boosting security for its forces deployed in Iraq, where terrorist bombings are a daily occurrence. South Korea is the third-largest contributor of forces to the Iraq coalition after the United States and Britain.

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