Security is tightened at Incheon Int’l airport

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Security is tightened at Incheon Int’l airport

Airport security screening checks of passenger baggage on U.S.-bound flights are being tightened, Incheon International Airport said yesterday.

Starting yesterday, the state-run airport corporation said its security workers opened and checked 15 percent of all baggage heading to U.S., an increase from the original 10 percent.

The decision follows an alleged attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a suspected Al Qaeda terrorist from Nigeria, to blow up a plane on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas. Authorities say he had hidden a homemade bomb in his clothing.

The U.S. government subsequently raised its aviation security level.

“The security level of Incheon International Airport was raised to yellow from blue in an effort to toughen body and baggage screening for passengers heading to the United States,” said Kim Yong-uk, a senior official of Incheon International Airport’s security team.

Incheon has five security levels - green, blue, yellow, orange and red. This is the first time in eight years that the airport decided to raise its security level. Passengers wearing heels or elevated shoes need to have them examined at security checkpoints.

“After it turned out that the man in the recent failed terror attempt hid explosives in his lower body, we’re raising security checks on shoes and the lower body,” Kim said.

Double baggage checks, which are limited to U.S.-bound flight passengers, will be tightened. In the past, airline workers checked baggage for a second time before passengers boarded an airplane. But now a police officer will be on standby at the site and oversee the security check procedures, said Yoon Dae-pyo, the airport’s chief police official.

“There are times that passengers refuse a second baggage check when airline workers conduct the screening and that’s why police are getting involved from now on,” Yoon explained. “If a passenger rejects the second check, she or he will no longer be able to get on the flight.”

Airport police decided to dispatch more workers for security checks around the airport as well. The force used to run three shifts with 20 police officers each but now it will run three shifts with 30 police officers each time.

“If there’s any suspicious passenger at a departure gate, police officers will directly check the baggage on site,” said Park Dal-seo, another airport police officer.

Airlines expressed concern that the elevated security measures would slow airport operations.

Korean Air said it is asking passengers to come three hours early to the airport, as opposed to two. Asiana Airlines asked passengers to arrive several hours before flight departures and to leave unnecessary carry-on items at home.


By Chang Chung-hoon, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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