Tuesday, February 22, 2011

S. Korea: US Fighting terrorism

Korea Times

Customs officials in Korea, US to fight terrorism
By Kim Jae-won

top U.S. customs official said that his office, together with the Korean customs and immigration offices, will step up the fight against terrorism.

“What we (the two countries’ customs services) will do is to protect our countries from dangerous things, dangerous cargos, which can be terrorist or piracy related,” Alan Bersin, commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (U.S. CBP), said during an exclusive interview with The Korea Times last week.

Bersin visited Korea to hold meetings with Yoon Young-sun, commissioner of the Korea Customs Service (KCS), on Jeju Island, signing a memorandum of understanding for cooperation and the exchange of information.

Bersin said that their cooperation will more specifically identify “unlawful” cargos beforehand and exchange information to ferret out “dangerous” shipments.

The United States is Korea’s third largest trading partner with their two-way volume of cargo amounting to $90 billion per year. The volume is expected to go up further after the FTA is ratified and goes into effect.

This raises concerns on both sides that illegal cargo including counterfeit goods, guns and drugs will rise calling for positive preventive efforts. These efforts were packaged under the title of risk management.

“We will now explore the implementation of our cooperation through such means as exchanging information of our risk management systems and exchanges of personnel,” the U.S customs official said.

The former secretary of education for California said that Korea is a very important partner of the U.S. in terms of economic prosperity and competitiveness, noting that the relationship between Washington and Seoul was critical.

He said he will do his utmost to make the KORUS FTA, which is still awaiting ratification from both nations’ parliaments, be successful.

“As the two countries are moving to ratify the FTA, we are one of the agencies, which are responsible for the free trade agreement to be successful.”

Korea and the U.S. signed the KORUS FTA on June 30, 2007. Under the agreement, nearly 95 percent of all bilateral trade in consumer and industrial products would be free of duties in three years and most remaining tariffs would be eliminated in 10 years.

Bersin said his agency plans to strike a similar agreement with the Korean Immigration Service to take measures to check out dangerous people coming to his nation.

“We have discussed a similar joint statement and we will continue it through the U.S. Embassy,” he said.

Bersin had a meeting with Korea Immigration Service Commissioner Seok Dong-hyeon last week in Seoul.

After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack, the U.S. government created the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for the customs agency, immigration office, coastal security, and agricultural checks.

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