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FBI to protect U.S. Olympic athletes

Dec 20,2017
Thirty anti-terrorism agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will arrive in South Korea next month to protect American athletes competing in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, local government officials exclusively told the JoongAng Ilbo Monday.

It will be the largest FBI group ever dispatched to the country.

A senior South Korean government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the team will arrive in the latter half of January, but did not elaborate on whether they will train with their South Korean counterparts.

The Winter Games will last from Feb. 9 to 25.

“The size of the squad can fluctuate depending on domestic and international circumstances,” the South Korean government source said, adding, “That means there could be more agents coming in.”

Officers with more than 20 years of experience dealing with high-profile terrorism cases, such as the September 11 attacks, will be in the group, according to the source, who added it was customary for the United States to dispatch FBI agents for the Olympics, as it did for the 2012 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the 2012 Summer Games in London and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

A source from the local prosecution said it was reviewing the scope of activity allowed for the foreign agents, in case they ask authorities for any classified terrorism-related data.

Washington did not shy away from hinting at its security concerns for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics earlier this month, when its ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told Fox News that the U.S. government had not decided yet whether to participate in the Games, commenting, “What we will do is make sure we are taking every precaution possible to make sure” that American athletes are “safe and to know everything that’s going on around them.”

The envoy backpedaled just several days later, saying her country would indeed send a full delegation of athletes to Pyeongchang.

On Korea’s part, a local official from the prosecution said that its investigators were training for a wide variety of possible terrorism scenarios, such as a cyber attack intended to cripple telecommunications systems, and held a seminar with FBI agents last month on how the U.S. handles relevant cases. The Korean police invited six FBI forensic officials last month to the country to share know-how.

BY HYUN IL-HOON, PARK SARA [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]