|By Lee Hyo-sik
The government has taken a range of security-tightening measures at Incheon International Airport and 14 other airports across the country ahead of the upcoming G20 Seoul Summit.
Foreign air travelers transferring at Incheon International Airport, Korea’s main gateway to the rest of the world, will be thoroughly screened by immigration officials before boarding connecting flights, the Ministry of Justice said Tuesday.
Cargo planes originating from terrorism-sponsoring nations will be subject to more stringent inspections for bombs and other dangerous materials, following the recent discovery of bombs aboard U.S.-bound flights from Yemen.
Since the nation’s largest airport emerged as an aviation hub in Northeast Asia, a growing number of Chinese, Japanese and other nationals have transferred flights at Incheon from their home countries en route to the United States, Europe and other destinations. An average of 6,900 non-Korean passengers transfer flights at the airport every day.
The ministry is currently selecting 10 percent of transferring air travelers at Incheon International Airport randomly for a thorough confirmation of their travel routes and identities. They check whether the passengers are traveling on a fake passport or are associated with terrorist organizations. But, with less than 10 days to go before the G20 summit here, it plans to screen many more transferring passengers.
According to immigration officials, an increasing number of Chinese and other nationals seeking to enter the United States, Europe and other advanced countries transfer at Incheon.
They leave their home countries with valid passports. But at the transfer zone of Incheon International Airport, they receive forged passports from brokers and attempt to enter Korea or other destinations under a fake identity.
From January 2006 through September this year, a total of 604 Chinese and other nationals have been caught trying to board airplanes with bogus passports.
“We will strengthen the screening of transfer passengers in the run-up to the G20 summit. We will boost cooperation with Narita International Airport and other major airports across the globe to jointly crack down on those traveling with forged IDs in order to prevent them from entering Korea,’’ a ministry official said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said Monday that security alert levels at the nation’s 15 airports will be raised to “orange’’ from “yellow’’ on Thursday ahead of the G20 Seoul Summit.
An orange alert is the fourth highest of a five-tiered system that progressively rises from “green’’ in a normal state to “blue,’’ “yellow,’’ “orange’’ and “red.’’
The ministry also said a “red’’ alert will be issued from Nov. 8 for Incheon, Gimpo, Gimhae, Cheongju and Jeju international airports and will be maintained until Nov. 13.
Additionally, Incheon Airport Customs has strengthened the inspection of all incoming cargo from 20 countries suspected of sponsoring terrorist activities, following the discovery of bombs aboard airplanes bound for the U.S. and Europe.
It plans to open and search all air cargo shipped from Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and 18 other nations to screen out packages that may contain bombs or other dangerous materials.
The customs office has formed a joint task force with delivery and logistics firms to make their searches more effective, requiring them to disclose the details of delivered packages, including the identities of senders and receivers.
The office will also conduct 24-hour X-ray inspections of all incoming air cargo.
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