Recently, Incheon International Airport has been the focus of several security breaches. On Jan. 29 a hoax bomb was found at the airport on the first floor of passenger terminal C near the men’s room. Following this incident, there were two others of note that took place at the airport.
First, a Chinese couple attempted to illegally enter into Korea by easily opening a door that should have been locked and only a few days before, a Vietnamese transfer passenger also broke open an automatic immigration gate setting off an alarm that nobody responded to. No alarm was even triggered when he breached a second immigration security gate. As these events hit the news, Koreans became concerned about the level of security at Incheon International Airport. So why did these things happen?
The Dankook Herald (DKH) interviewed Lee Ho-il (Prof. Dept. of Aeronautical Science in Jungwon University). The DKH asked why Incheon International Airport has security problems and if he thought there was a solution. Prof. Lee said, “Incheon International Airport has grown rapidly and the number of passengers travelling through the site has increase. However, management manpower has not grown along with the capacity of the facility. Their security guards generally come from cooperative firms that cannot handle emergency situations. Incheon International Airport has twenty departments, but none are related to security.” The solution, according to Prof. Lee, is that they need a security department and many more guards, so that the airport has no further security breaches. The recent high profile incidents at the airport have brought light on many other security problems at the site. Old CCTV equipment is in use, which cannot distinguish between faces as well as damaged or old security devices which can be easily breached with little effort. The DKH asked which was more serious, the human factors or mechanical ones. “The airport has more problems with human error than technological failure. They need systematic management to solve the problem. The security guards work in 3 shifts per day. If they have break time or one of them takes vacation, one guard needs to work twice as hard as another”, he said.
He also said the most efficient way to improve security is to improve working conditions and the work control system. He believes that by improving working conditions, guards can develop a sense of ownership over their responsibilities. Reviewing the service situation, improving security education, and regularly checking security also strengthens airport safety.
The DKH looked into the difference between airports in Korea and airports in other countries to see if we can learn how to do things better. The major difference the DKH found was that those who handle security at Incheon airport are people from security service companies. However, most international airports are managed by their own separate institutions, because their governments view airports as the gateway in to their country. In the case of the USA, the TSA manages the airport security system. After 9/11 it made some significant changes. Before the terrorist attack the airport hired contract workers as security guards, but post 9/11 the TSA hired only government employees to work as security guards. This means that all security guards are specialized in their area responsibility and sense of duty.
Some airports in Australia and the UK assign their security business to a private company for management effectiveness. However, a stabbing at Sydney airport and a death at Heathrow forced the airports to adopt measures to strengthen security.
Incheon Airport is an important national facility and a gateway to country. Actions that take place there greatly affect the security of our country. Incheon Airport has provided good service to customers, but the airport should also provide improved safety and tighten its security. Moreover, airports in Korea have similar security systems. This means that if airports do not address their weaknesses, incidences like the security breaches at Incheon could occur at other airports. It’s time to make a concerted effort to put in place solutions to both the human and technological shortcomings at international airports.
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