Tighten airport security

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Tighten airport security

Two Chinese nationals broke through the multi-layered security system at Incheon International Airport to illegally enter the country last week, raising security concerns amid increasing incidents of terrorism around the world. The two were arrested four days later, but how they could have passed multiple immigration stops at one of the world’s largest airports sparks serious questions about airport security.

Incheon Airport prides itself as a national infrastructure with top-grade security. Yet it could not stop the Chinese couple in their 30s from breezing through the tight screening process. It only took them 14 minutes to sneak pass the immigration desk after they arrived at dawn on Jan. 21 in transit to Beijing. The airport did not follow its strict guideline stating that among the six exit doors, five - barring the fourth exit door - should be sealed off from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the following morning.

The two also easily forced open the glass door at the last checkpoint, which lacked a security guard nearby. The airport was not even aware of their disappearance until the following day. The Ministry of Justice’s immigration office only asked the airport authority to check the CCTV cameras 24 hours after it was notified by the airline that the two had not boarded their scheduled flight to Beijing on Jan. 21.

Incheon Airport is the gateway to Korea, where over 45 million people pass a year. It is a border checkpoint in a borderless world. Given a series of terrorist attacks around the globe, the airport should be responsible for filtering out dangerous people to protect the country from any threat.

Imagine what would have happened if the illegitimate travelers were connected to a terrorist group like the Islamic State? A foreigner was arrested last year for posting pro-IS messages on social network platforms, and the police earlier this month went on high alert after receiving a phone call from an Arabic-speaking foreigner threatening to bomb an airport in the country.

After criticisms arose about this latest security breach, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has announced measures to toughen things up at the airport, including tightening exit and entry control and installing additional infrared sensors. But those steps alone can hardly calm an increasingly jittery public. The problem should be addressed in the context of broader national security concerns. The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport must join hands with the airport authority to re-examine our overall security system at airports across the nation.

The government also should rethink about revolving-door appointments to head national airports. Two heads of Incheon Airport quit their job to run in the April 13 general election even before their tenure ended. We have the 2018 Winter Olympics coming up. The government must take strong actions to ensure meticulous screening measures to keep Korea safe.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 27, Page 30

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