February 01, 2016 12:21
Incheon International Airport was reeling on Friday after another serious security breach was exposed. Friday alone saw a hoax bomb being planted in the airport and a Vietnamese individual taking just two minutes to breach two separate security gates.
Earlier this month a Chinese couple broke through several security gates at the airport in just 14 minutes.
The Vietnamese man forced open an automated immigration gate during the busy morning hours, but nobody even noticed that the alarm went off at the initial breach. No alarm sounded when he broke through the second gate.
When the Chinese couple breached security, a door that should have been shut opened automatically, and they easily removed a latch at another gate due to years of disrepair.
Experts blame lax security on years of focusing on service improvements alone. The airport has topped the international Airport Service Quality survey for the last 10 years, but the main criterion is how fast passengers are processed through immigration.
"The government's target for this year is to open the immigration gates at the airport 30 minutes earlier and make the processing time even shorter by setting up more automated booths," an airport staffer said.
The result was that the immigration official who should have been watching over the automated booth had to go to a non-automated booth when passengers rushed into the airport.
Following a spate of terror attacks by Islamic State, airports around the world are beefing up security at the expense of service points, but Incheon is heading in the opposite direction. Yet a recent baggage jam that caused thousands of passengers to wait days for their belongings threw a spanner in the works on that front too.
Former airport chief Kang Dong-seok admitted, "Stressing only customer service has ended up causing officials to overlook security."
The security breaches resulted from malfunctioning security systems, security staff who failed to follow rules and lax monitoring of surveillance cameras. If these problems are left unresolved, Korea's gateway remains vulnerable to terror attacks.
Critics say this glaring hole has grown even bigger after the top post at the airport was left vacant when former president Park Wan-soo quit late last year to run for the National Assembly.
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