Full-Body Scanners for Korean Airports

      July 02, 2010 11:43

      Full-body scanners will be set up at major airports in Korea at the end of this month as planned, despite a recommendation by the National Human Rights Commission to scrap the devices due to concerns over privacy, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said Thursday.

      The ministry is in the process of installing three full-body scanners at Incheon International Airport and one each at Gimpo, Gimhae and Jeju airports ahead of the G20 Summit in Seoul in November. Each cost between W240 million to W290 million (US$1=W1,229).

      Regarding the recommendation by the NHRC, the ministry claimed it has made "thorough preparations" to prevent any violations of privacy. "Given the time it takes to train workers and test the devices, full-body scanning will begin around the end of the month." Recommendations by the NHRC have no binding power and it is up to individual government agencies to accept or reject them.

      The commission wrote to the minister of land, transport and maritime affairs on Wednesday urging him to abandon the plan, saying full-body scanners "expose images of detailed bodily contours." Even enhancements to noses and breasts could be revealed through full-body scans, the commission said.

      But the ministry said there will be no problem since it intends to blur the face and other portions of the body on images captured by the scanners, and image analysis will be done in separate rooms so that staff cannot see the people being scanned, while security officers at the gates will be unable to view scanned images. Regarding concerns that some of the images could be leaked, the ministry said the full-body scanners are incapable of storing, printing or transmitting images. It said the only chance of a leak is if staff take a picture of an image, but added that cameras, cell phones and other devices will not be allowed into the scanning and analysis rooms.

      The full-body scanners "will be used only on passengers who have been flagged in the preliminary security check or those who are on the 'blacklist' of airline security threats," the ministry said. It added passengers who do not wish to be scanned will have the choice of being manually searched.

      Some 36 airports in the U.S., as well as in the U.K., France, Japan and other countries already use full-body scanners "to prevent terrorism," the ministry said.

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