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South Korea

South Korea has a dedicated counterterrorism law, adopted amid controversy in 2016 and amended two years later. The maximum sentence is the death penalty.

Compliance with International Law:
Last updated: one year ago

The Definition of Terrorism in Domestic Law

The 2016 Act on Counter-Terrorism for the Protection of Citizens and Public Security (as amended) defines 

any of the following conduct carried out for the purpose of impeding the exercise of the authority of the State, a local government, or a foreign government (including a local government of a foreign country and an international organization established in accordance with a treaty or any other international agreement), or for the purpose of causing it to conduct any affair which is not obligatory on it or threatening the public:

(a) Killing a human or posing a risk to a person's life by causing bodily injury or arresting, confining, kidnapping, inducing, or taking hostage of a person;

(b) Any [proscribed] conduct engaged in an aircraft ...:

(c) Any [proscribed] conduct related to a ship ... or a marine structure ...:

(d) Placing, detonating, or using in any other way a biochemical, explosive, or incendiary weapon or device made to cause death, serious injury, or serious material damage or having such power on any of [certain] vehicles or facilities;

(e) Any [proscribed] acts related to nuclear materials ..., radioactive materials ..., or nuclear facilities ...:Art. 2(1), 2016 Terrorism Law (as amended).

Adherence to Global and Regional Terrorism Treaties


South Korea is a State Party to all of the main United Nations treaties on terrorism.


Adherence to Global Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1973 Convention on Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons State Party
1979 Hostage-Taking Convention State Party
1997 Terrorist Bombings Convention State Party
1999 Terrorist Financing Convention State Party
2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention State Party


There is no regional treaty on terrorism to which South Korea can adhere.

Laws and Penalties for Terrorist Offences

Article 17 of the 2016 Law concerns the offences of forming terrorist groups. A ringleader is punished by "death or by imprisonment with labour for an indefinite term or for a term of not less than ten years". A person who has an important role such as planning or commanding terrorism is punished by imprisonment with labour for an indefinite term or for a term of not less than seven years. A person who becomes a member of foreign terrorist fighters in a foreign country is punished by imprisonment with labour for a term of not less than five years. Others who join a terrorist group are punished by imprisonment with labour for a term of not less than three years.

A person who supports a terrorist group by raising, arranging, or keeping funds knowing that it is a fund for terrorism or disguising the fact concerning the acquisition and origin of such funds shall be punished by imprisonment with labour for not more than ten years.

Counterterrorism Capacities and Policies at Domestic Level

The 2016 Act was especially controversial owing to the powers granted to the National Intelligence Service (NIS), which has a record of intruding into the lives of political opponents to the regime in power.


South Korea 2016 Terrorism Law (as amended) (English version)

Balancing the Act on Anti-Terrorism in South Korea (2017 Article)